Truckee-Tahoe dropout numbers lower than state | SierraSun.com

Truckee-Tahoe dropout numbers lower than state

Karen McIntyre
Sierra Sun

More than 24 percent of California public high school students dropped out in the 2006-07 school year, according to figures released Wednesday by the state Department of Education.

“24.2 percent is unacceptable to me,” Superintendent of Education Jack O’Connell said in a teleconference. “It’s a tremendous loss of potential.”

Local dropout rates were well below the state average, with a 12.4 percent adjusted four-year rate for Placer County and a 7.1 percent rate for Tahoe Truckee Joint Unified School District.

However, O’Connell still considers those numbers too high.

“Any student dropping out is one too many,” he said.

The data was compiled from a new tracking system that issues each student an identifier number. According to a release, there are 28 numbers, each indicating why a particular student left school. The numbers will allow officials to monitor individual students, noting by their numbers whether they dropped out, graduated, left the country or otherwise continued their education.

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According to the new system that started tracking students in 2002, 67.6 percent of students graduated and 24.2 percent dropped out. The remaining 8.2 percent withdrew, but completed high school equivalency diplomas, which includes special education students or students who moved out of state, transferred to private school or died.

Because the numbers are the first using the new computerized tracking system, they cannot accurately be compared to last year’s rates, O’Connell said.

The new data revealed “disturbingly high dropout rates” for minority students: 41.3 percent of black students, 31.3 percent of Native Americans, 30.3 percent of Hispanics, and 27.9 percent of Pacific Islanders. White students had a 15.2 percent dropout rate, while Asians had a 10.2 percent rate.

“The achievement gap is real,” O’Connell said. “It’s dark, it’s persistent, and it absolutely must be closed.”

Prior to the new tracking system, educators had to make assumptions and educated guesses about the number of students who dropped out of school, O’Connell said. Now, not only can they more accurately calculate the number of dropouts, but they can know why each student dropped out.

“There will be no more falling through the cracks,” he said.

Schools will be held accountable for those students who do not attend, and dropout numbers will be calculated into each school’s Academic Performance Index beginning in 2011.

Holding schools accountable will create the appropriate political pressures needed to provide resources, and the data can be used to design programs to keep students in school, O’Connell said.

The Department of Education’s long-term goals are to link the new tracking system to higher education and to work with preschool programs to ensure best practices.

“We need to see progress,” O’Connell said.