The California Department of Education just released its latest dropout numbers — the second year of data for a new (and supposedly improved) data system that tracks individual students with unique ID numbers wherever they go in California.
If you take the data at face value, the Oakland school district is well on its way to solving one of its most serious challenges: From one year to the next, its estimated high school dropout rate fell from 36 percent to 28 percent.
So I called Karl Scheff, who manages the Educational Demographics Office at the California Department of Education, and asked what we should make of this swing.
“It’s a pretty big jump,” he said, after a pause. Then Scheff explained that districts are becoming more familiar with the new system — meaning that they are sending the state more accurate “exit codes” each time a student leaves a school.
If that’s true, and the latest estimates are more accurate, then maybe it’s good news after all. Well, relatively speaking. These new figures show that 35 percent of the district’s African-American high school students (down from 40 percent) and 27 percent of its Latino high school students (down from 37 percent) quit school early.
I put together a spreadsheet that compares last year’s estimates, by school (based on what happened during the 2006-07 school year) and this year’s (based on 2007-08 data). You can find it here. Look for the huge differences at some Oakland schools, such as Youth Empowerment School, Oakland Tech and MetWest High School. The new estimates are in blue font.
DATA NOTES: The year-to-year differences listed in Column H, though in percentage format, are percentage point differences, not percent changes. Also: Students who enroll in an adult school, or who take more than four years to graduate, are not counted as dropouts in this system. Middle school dropouts are counted, but they are not included in the overall dropout estimate.
image from mario zucca illustration’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons