Report finds slight dip in high school dropouts |

Report finds slight dip in high school dropouts

SAN FRANCISCO ” California public high schools showed slight improvements in their dropout and graduation rates in the 2007-08 school year, according to new figures released Tuesday by the state Department of Education.

The report found that the statewide dropout rate was 20.1 percent, down from 21.1 percent in 2006-07. About 68.1 percent of high school students graduated in 2007-08, up from 67.7 percent the previous year.

“The dropout rate in California is still unacceptably high, and it must be addressed in a comprehensive manner,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell. “We can’t wait until a student drops out to determine there’s a problem.”

The dropout rates for all ethnic groups fell roughly one percent, but O’Connell said he was particularly concerned about the “alarmingly high dropout rates among African American and Hispanic students.”

The report showed a dropout rate of 8.4 percent for Asians, 12.2 percent for whites, 25.5 percent for Hispanics and 34.7 percent for African Americans.

About 11.8 percent of students were not counted as dropouts nor graduates. They include students who re-enrolled as fifth-year seniors, earned GEDs, enrolled in non-diploma programs, moved out of state or died.

The numbers in Tuesday’s report are expected to change slightly after school districts review and correct the data over the next two months.

The annual report is the second based on a new state tracking system that issues each student an identifier number and enables officials to monitor each student as he or she progresses through school, allowing for more accurate accounting of graduation and dropout rates.

State education officials expect to have more accurate figures in 2011 after the state has had the opportunity to track individual students for four years.

Alan Bonsteel, president of California Parents for Educational Choice, said the new system still doesn’t accurately reflect California’s dropout rate because it fails to count middle-school dropouts and other students who leave the system.

The Department of Education will include dropout rates for middle school students next year, state officials said.

Experts say lowering California’s dropout rate could help reduce crime, unemployment, incarceration and health care costs, while boosting the state’s economy.

“It has huge social and financial costs to the state,” said Russell Rumberger, an education professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who directs the California Dropout Research Project. “Our economy could be threatened by not having a sufficiently educated work force.”

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