Burbank Unified sees improvements in student drop-out rates

Burbank high schools are outperforming many of their counterparts up and down the state in retaining and graduating students, according to data released this week.

Of the 1,329 Burbank students who started high school in 2007, 91.4% made it through to graduation in 2011 while 5.3% dropped out, according to California Department of Education data released Wednesday. The remaining students completed special education programs, were still working toward a diploma or passed the state General Educational Test.

Statewide, 76.3% of California high school students scheduled to graduate in 2011 did so, while 14.4% dropped out.

Emilio Urioste, former principal of Burroughs High School and newly appointed director of secondary education, said Burbank Unified has made concerted efforts in recent years to tackle dropouts on a student-by-student basis. Counselors and administrators identify and meet with at-risk students and their parents to map out strategies, he said.

“It is that individualized attention that brings the parents in,” Urioste said. “It really ratchets up the assistance and the expectations for those children.”

The new tactic has paid off in big ways, he said.

“It is intensive in terms of the time spent, but you have to do that one on one to be able to answer the parents’ questions and to be able to target what interventions have to take place for that specific child,” Urioste said.

The statistics for the class of 2011 marked the second time the California Department of Education collected the four-year data, making it the first time they can be compared year to year.

In Burbank Unified, the year-over-year assessment showed modest gains. The class of 2010 had a graduation rate of 90.5% and a dropout rate of 7.8%, meaning the district made progress on both fronts.

Graduation and dropout rates remained steady in some student subgroups, and showed progress in others. Latinos in the class of 2011 graduated at a rate of 88%, a slight uptick from 87.8% the year before. The dropout rate, meanwhile, dipped by 2% for 2011 to 5.9%.

English-language learners graduated at a rate of 79%, as compared to 79.9% in 2010. The dropout rate among the same group of students dropped about a percentage point to 12.9% in 2011.

The Burroughs High School class of 2011 bested its counterpart at Burbank High School, logging a graduation rate of 96.4% and a dropout rate of 2.6%. Burbank High’s rates for graduation and drop-outs were 93.5% and 4.5%, respectively.

Statewide, the overall graduation rate was up 1.5% in 2011 compared to 2010, and the dropout rate was down 2.2%. During a conference call Wednesday, state education officials noted that Latinos and African American students logged gains in graduation rates of 2.2% and 2.3%, respectively.

“We are very pleased that these graduation rates are up even more than students over all,” said Deborah Sigman, a deputy superintendent with the California Department of Education.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson attributed the improvements partly to greater attention to graduation and dropout rates.

“I think we have also seen an increase of the success of some of the programs that enable students to think about college, think about their future careers,” Torlakson said.

Twitter: @megankoneil

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