Audit Finds High Drop Out Rates Among Latinos and African Americans

March 16, 2012

Findings Show 95,000 Students of the Class of 2010 Dropped Out and Approximately 50,000 Of Those Students Were Latinos.

SACRAMENTO - At the request of the California Latino Legislative Caucus, the California State Auditor conducted extensive research into the new reporting of high school graduation and dropout data by the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). The report, High School Graduation and Dropout Data: California's New Database May Enable the State to Better Serve Its High School Students Who Are at Risk of Dropping Out, was released today.

"Finally, we have a comprehensive report verifying exactly where we stand in terms of graduation rates and dropout rates," said Assemblyman Jose Solorio, who took a lead role in writing the audit request. "The numbers aren't shocking to those who follow the trends, but understanding the breakdown of the numbers by such factors as ethnicity, socioeconomic status and command of the English language are very valuable in having a baseline to measure future improvement. We also found that up to 33 percent of data regarding why students leave high school early is inaccurate or undocumented. That's a red flag that's been raised and now the California Department of Education is planning to work with schools on ensuring they're following the proper reporting guidelines."

Assemblyman Ricardo Lara, Chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus, concurred. "We are eliminating guess work and are on our way to tracking every student over time. These audit findings provide policymakers with a deeper understanding of the dropout crisis and will help us do a better job of identifying at-risk students early on and intervene appropriately."

The 2009-10 graduation class is the first class to be tracked throughout their entire high school experience. According to the report, the State's graduation rate for the 2009-10 cohort of students was 74.4 percent, while the dropout rate was 18.2 percent. African-American students and Hispanic or Latino students dropped out at higher rates than their peers, as did students who were English language learners. White and Asian socioeconomically disadvantaged students were more likely to drop out than students in those groups who were not socioeconomically disadvantaged. And students who failed the California High School Exit Examination on their first attempt were significantly less likely to graduate than students who passed on their first attempt.

The report did however point out that CALPADS implementation was uneven throughout the state. The way personnel verified and documented codes varied depending upon the reasons that students left school, so the data on some students may be less accurate than for others. The report also concluded that another 7.4 percent of the students in this class could not be accounted for as either dropouts or graduates for unknown reasons.

"We are only beginning to realize the power of CALPADS and what the data will ultimately be able to tell us," said Solorio. "But today we know 94,312 students of the class of 2010 dropped out, and because of this report, we have a clearer sense of the demographics of those students. That is a major step forward."

You can review the Fact Sheet of the report by clicking here, the Executive Summary of the report by clicking here, and read the entire report by clicking here.