Monday, 17 June 2024

County high schools achieve reductions in dropout rates

LAKE COUNTY – A report released this week shows that high school dropout rates across California have dropped slightly, with local schools showing even greater improvements.

On Tuesday state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell released the annual report on dropout and graduation rates for the 2007-08 school year.

He reported that in 2007-08, 68.3 percent of public school students in California graduated, up from 67.7 percent last year. The adjusted four-year derived dropout rate for the same school year is 20.1 percent, down from 21.1 percent last year.

For the 2007-08 school year, Lake County's overall dropout rate was 16.8 percent, down from 23.07 percent in the previous year.

Local districts posted the following results, with the previous year's percentages included in parentheses: Upper Lake Union High School, 20.1 percent (27.6); Konocti Unified, 19.8 percent (21.4); Lakeport Unified, 15.6 percent (21.7); Middletown Unified, 10.4 percent (21); Kelseyville Unified, 9.6 percent (12.2).

“I am heartened that the graduation rate is up slightly, but California’s dropout rate is still unacceptably high,” said O’Connell.

O'Connell said there are long-term economic repercussions from not graduating for students, for their communities and for our statewide economy. “These data provide even more evidence of the challenge and the moral imperative of closing the achievement gap as well as increasing graduation rates among all students.”

This is the second year that the State Department of Education has calculated student graduation and dropout rates by collecting student-level enrollment and exit data.

The agency said when they have two additional years of data they will be able to produce more accurate student graduation and dropout rates at the school level.

“The data is going to become, I think, more reliable,” said Lake County Superintendent of Schools Dave Geck.

Ethnic groups still pose unique challenges at the state and local levels, despite some improvements.

O'Connell called dropout rates for African American and Hispanic students “alarmingly high.”

In Lake County, American Indians led with the highest dropout percentage, 32.7 percent, down from 35.1 percent in 2007-07.

The next highest group, African Americans, had a 24.1 percent dropout rate in 2007-08, down from 31 percent the previous year.

Other groups, with past year's numbers in parentheses, are: multiple/no response, 22.6 (24.5); Hispanic or Latino, 17.4 percent (22.4); white, 13.8 percent (14.2); Filipino, 12.5 percent (0); Asian, 0 percent (16.7); Pacific Islander, rate can't be calculated for 2007-08 (33.3).

“We have to find ways to engage those students,” Geck said.

Geck said efforts are going on across the county to better engage students and keep them in school. Those efforts include the College-Going Initiative – which this year honored 108 local students accepted at four-year colleges and universities – and career technical programs such as Clear Lake High School's health pathways track and Konocti Unified's technical education courses.

He said they're communicating with students that the difference between a high school diploma and a college diploma is about $1 million in earnings over a lifetime.

Districts have until July 3 to review the data, verify student exit codes, and correct all data, O'Connell's office reported.

The new system of tracking students uses the Statewide Student Identifiers (SSIDs) to help districts identify students who were considered a dropout at a school they left but in fact were enrolled in a different district, according to O'Connell's office. In addition, CDE can identify students reported by a school district as transferring to another California school district but cannot be found subsequently enrolled.

The SSIDs are to be part of the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, or CALPADS, a system to track students that is to be implemented at all districts in the 2009-10 school year.

Frustrations in addressing dropouts

Upper Lake Union High School Principal/Superintendent Pat Iaccino, whose district has the highest dropout rate according to the Tuesday report, said the way the state tracks dropouts has many holes.

While they're now attempting to track student to determine if they turn up in another school, Iaccino said that tracking system doesn't include community colleges, adult education, universities or other states where students could continue their education and turn out not to be dropouts. Also, students who receive certificates of completion but don't pass the exit exam are classified as dropouts, he said.

So he and his staff are attempting to track students themselves. If a student doesn't appear at school for a time, they send someone out to visit their home.

He said a lot of aspects in the system need to be improved to get a clearer idea of the true number of dropouts, which Iaccino said is a figure that's manipulated for political purposes.

“I get extremely frustrated with the state of California and the Department of Education,” said Iaccino. “What would they like us to do?”

If an 18-year-old can legally leave high school and get an associate's degree at a community college without a high school diploma, why do they need a diploma, he asked.

“We have been doing everything in our power to get these kids through school,” he said, noting that it's a constant pain to deal with ambiguous percentages.

Iaccino, who has been in education for decades, said dropout always have been a struggle, with the state constantly changing the way dropouts are monitored.

He said because his school is small, he believes he can raise the graduation rate to the area of 95 to 97 percent.

One way Iaccino would like to address his district's dropout rate is through establishing an adult education program, which also would benefit community members. However, he said the state won't allow him to do that, so students need to drive instead to Kelseyville.

Debra Jones, administrator, for the state Department of Education's Adult Education Office, said Iaccino is correct – “and it's very sad” – that there are new issues that are hampering adult education programs from getting started.

She said the adult education programs, which were established by Proposition 98, don't get average daily attendance (ADA) dollars until they've been operating for two years. However, there is now no longer an ADA system due to the way the recent state budget handles such categorical funds.

Jones said the funds now go directly to school districts, which are using the funds to offset costs in other areas. “There is no a system in place right now until 2013 because of the budget that the legislature put together,” she said. “There won't be a way for a district to start an adult school. There just isn't a mechanism in place.”

There are some other options, she said, such as specific federal dollars and the ability to start fee-based programs.

Jones said Lake County has huge need as far as the dropout rate and the number of residents who are illiterate or who have low reading comprehension levels. “It's even further away right now due to our California state budget challenges than it ever was before.”

Geck said the programs needed to keep students from dropping out are in danger due to the current budget crisis.

“The big challenge with the proposition and the rhetoric around budget cut is we don't have specific information about what it is going to do to the budget,” he said.

To see the reports, visit the state Department of Education Web site at

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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