High school dropout rate on the decline

Glendale Unified continues to outshine statewide averages, producing more high school graduates and fewer dropouts according to data released Wednesday.

Of the 2,347 Glendale students who started high school in 2007, 87.4% made it through to graduation in 2011 while 6.7% 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 earned a GED.

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

“I think the dropout rate and the overall graduation rate is extremely important to our board of education,” Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan said. “They have done a great job of creating programs to reach out to all our students.”

Special efforts include retaining super seniors, or fifth-year high school students who need extra time to complete the necessary credits for graduation, Sheehan said. Programs such as AVID, which seeks to set students on a path to college, are also effective, he said.

“The kids have to be able to see themselves advancing through the system, and when can visualize it themselves they are more apt to do it,” Sheehan said.

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

In Glendale Unified, the year-over-year assessment showed modest gains. The class of 2010 had a graduation rate of 85.4% and a dropout rate of 7.8%, meaning the district made progress on both fronts.

The district also notched gains with its English language learners, with graduation rates within that subgroup increasing by 5.7% to 71.1% in the class of 2011, and dropout rates decreasing 3.2% to 13.9%. Students categorized as socioeconomically disadvantaged also showed improvements, with graduation rates climbing 2.9% to 83.3% in the class 2011, and dropout rates dropping 2.1% to 7.1%.

Still, the numbers among the district’s largest minority group, Latinos, remained largely flat. Latinos in the Glendale Unified class of 2011 graduated at a rate of 77.3% as compared to 78.4% the year before. The dropout rate among those same students was 9.6% in 2011, a slight improvement over the 10.6% rate in 2010.

Statewide, the overall graduation rate was up 1.5% in 2011 as compared to 2010, and the dropout rate 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.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson attributed the improved numbers in part to greater attention to graduation and dropout rates by school officials and policy makers.

“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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