Significant achievement gap between African American students and their peers

SACRAMENTO – New statewide reports show a 59% graduation rate for African American students, a number well below the statewide graduation rate of 74.4 percent. Consistent with the graduation rates, the dropout rates also illustrate that African American students (30.1%) are more likely to drop out than their peers.

“Sadly, the graduation rates of these subgroups of students are too low and their dropout rates are too high,” said Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “Our job is to provide every child the best chance to succeed—whether they speak English, come from a family in poverty, have health issues, or special needs.”

The 74.4 percent statewide graduation rate and 18.2 percent statewide dropout rate—as well as rates calculated for counties, districts, and schools across California—were for the first time based on four-year cohort information collected about individual students using the state’s California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS).

“For far too long, the discussion about graduation and dropout rates has revolved around how the results were obtained. Now, we can focus on the much more important issue of how to raise the number of graduates and lower the number of dropouts,” Torlakson said.

Beyond the 74.4 percent graduation rate and the 18.2 percent dropout rate, the remaining 7.4 percent of this cohort are students who are neither graduates nor dropouts. Some are still enrolled in school (6.6 percent); others are non-diploma special education students (0.5 percent); and there are those who passed the General Educational Development Test (0.4 percent).

The new cohort dropout rate is calculated for high school students, grades nine through twelve. But other reports show significant numbers of students who drop out of school during the middle school years. Academic Performance Index data indicates that more than 17,000 eighth grade students in 2008-09 dropped out of school before entering the ninth grade.

“The new cohort data collection system shines a light on the middle school dropout problem,” added Torlakson. “Our research shows that chronic absence from school, even as early as kindergarten, is a strong indicator of whether a child will drop out of school later. Clearly, we need to invest more in programs designed to keep elementary and middle school students in school.”

While there is also a significant graduation rate gap for Hispanic students at 67.7 percent, 4,700 more Hispanics graduated in 2010, by far the largest increase by any other subgroup of students.  There is a 56.3 percent graduation rate among English learners.

The state, county, district, and school graduation and dropout rates can be downloaded at the California Department of Education DataQuest Web site at