You’ve heard me gripe about all of the dropout rate calculations and projections for Oakland’s public schools. Well, the state department of education has finally broken out its newfangled student tracking system and released some (supposedly) accurate, estimate-free dropout data for the 2006-07 school year!
Two years ago, California assigned every public school student a unique state ID number in order to track their progress, regardless of where in the state they moved. If a student vanishes from Oakland High School, for example, and turns up in Los Angeles Unified a month later, that student will no longer be counted as a dropout.
While admittedly exciting on a wonky, statistical level — oh, the information! — the state’s preliminary data present a very sobering picture. If it’s as accurate as they say, it means that nearly 11 percent of Oakland’s high school kids quit school during the 2006-07 year alone.
Researchers say that would make for a 35.9 percent dropout rate in Oakland over four years. And, unlike other researchers’ estimates, that doesn’t even count students who are enrolled in adult schools or earning their GEDs. (There is only one year’s worth of detailed student data so far, so the 35.9 percent four-year rate is, alas, another estimate.)
What also caught my attention was the huge difference in rates reported in the old (and erratic) dropout reporting system in 2005-06, and the new system. You can see for yourself on my little spreadsheet here. I highlighted some of the schools with the largest swings from 2005-06 to 2006-07.
(Note: Obviously, the spreadsheet doesn’t compare apples to apples. I seriously doubt the dropout problem changed that dramatically from year to year. I’m only noting the sharp percentage point differences that went along with the more accurate data.)
Oh, and here is an interesting table that shows some 20 reasons that students left a particular school, from going private to failing the high school exit exam.
image from mario zucca illustration’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons