State graduation rate increases, but so does dropout rate |

State graduation rate increases, but so does dropout rate

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO and#8212; California public high school students graduated at a higher rate in 2008-09 than the previous year, but more students also dropped out, according to data released Tuesday by the state Department of Education.

The data showed that 70.1 percent of public school students graduated from high school during the 2008-09 school yearand#8212;an improvement from 68.5 percent the previous year.

Still, the dropout rate for the 2008-09 school year was 21.7 percentand#8212;up from the previous year’s 18.9 percent.

“Clearly the dropout rates are too high,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said in a call with reporters. “It’s unacceptable and absolutely must be addressed.”

O’Connell blamed the increased dropout rate on state budget cuts to K-12 schools that have led to larger class sizes, fewer teachers, counselors and nurses, and reductions in electives and extracurricular activities.

“There are fewer learning opportunities in our schools,” the superintendent said.

About 8 percent of California students were in special education programs, moved away or received high school equivalency certificates. They were not counted as dropouts or graduates.

African-Americans had the highest dropout rate at 36.9 percent, followed by Hispanics followed at 26.9 percent. Both groups saw their dropout rates increase by 3 percent each from the previous school year.

O’Connell said he was optimistic about an increase in graduation rates among Hispanics to 59 percent in 2008-09, an almost 5 percent jump.

“There is an urgency to close the achievement gap,” he said. “It is no longer a moral or social imperative, but an economic imperative. The work force we need to be skilled and well educated will be coming from this group.”

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