Edu-wonk alert! New Web site on high school graduation and higher education in California

high school graduation
photo by Anda Chu/Staff

A new Web site that went live today has no shortage of stats and pretty charts about California youth and higher education: high school graduation trends, completion of a-g requirements in high school, by gender; college enrollment trends; community college completion rates for degree-seekers, etc.

Measuring Success, Making Progress — as the site is called — is funded by the Hewlett Foundation.

What do you make of the information? Does any of it surprise you?

I was struck by the dropoff in the 12th grade between the number of kids who enrolled as seniors and those who received a diploma. ( This was among group of kids whose enrollment was tracked since they were seventh-graders in 2002.)

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/ Sharon

    Speaking of data, check out these figures from the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity at Ohio State University. They are from a 2004 PowerPoint document available online, “Social/Economic Indicators by Race: Disparity 1954 and Today.” I suggest you Google it and take a look at the graphs. For instance:

    – Since 1957, the proportion of the African American population with a high school degree has increased by 300% (18.4% to 79.2%) and the proportion of the African American population with a 4-year college degree increased by almost 500% (2.9% to 17.2%).
    – High School dropout rates for African Americans have decreased substantially in the last thirty years, dropping from 33.5% in 1974 to 17% in 2002.
    – College enrollment rates have increased from 36% in 1960 to 57.7% in 2002 for African Americans (an increase of 66%). College enrollment rates for Whites increased by 45% during this forty-four year time period.

    So although there is still a significant AA/W disparity, educational attainment for African Americans has improved quite considerably since 1954.

    Now look at these figures:

    – African American child poverty rates were approximately double the rate of white child poverty in the 1990’s.
    – The median African American family income in 1954 was 55% of the white median. In 2002 this figure had grown to 62%, only a 7% improvement in all those years.
    – In 2000, the median assets ($7,500) for African American households was 9.5% of the median assets for non-Hispanic whites ($79,000).
    – African American unemployment has been approximately twice as high as white unemployment, at least since the 1950s.

    And the most stunning of all:

    – The number of incarcerated African Americans has increased 800% since the 1950s.
    – The number of incarcerated African Americans surpassed the number of Whites incarcerated in the late 1980s. The AA population is only about 1/6 of the White population.

    To me, what this shows is that, despite the tremendous increase in the educational attainment of African Americans over the past 50+ years, it has not decreased the racial disparities for employment one bit, or has made much of a dent in improving the average family income. It makes me think that the talk about education being “the answer” is misleading.

    How do you interpret this? If the significant educational attainment improvements of the past several decades have not had one iota of effect on closing the AA/W employment gap, might something else more powerful be going on?

    And as this country focuses exclusively on a supposed “education crisis,” it is ignoring dealing with the most devastating crisis of all – astronomical incarceration rates. When you look at the graph you’ll see that they started the rapid escalation in the mid-1970s, around the time of Prop 13, and about a generation after a huge percentage of US manufacturing jobs were eliminated.

    So I ask, are today’s underfunded public schools the cause of the incarceration crisis? How reasonable to think that they can be held 100% responsible for fixing it all?

  • Nextset

    Sharon, the High School Diploma has depreciated to the point where it is meaningless. You cannot infer that a graduate especially a black graduate is educated at all by having one, even more so from any urban high school. So the increase in black HSGs is meaningless – a product of government affirmative action type promotions.

    And the college degree is heading the same way. You can’t be sure the college grads – especially the blacks can write a business letter or summarize a stack of reports into a memo.

    We have this disaster because the government was busy watering down standards to pacify some people who are easily pacified.

    Now that we are moving into Great Depression II those who are hiring are moving to quality and the AA students are seeing themselves unemployable. When the state and local governments collapse – and make no mistake, they can and they will – uneducated people will be left with very little to live on. When the US dollar is avoided in favor of foreign currencies, gold or hard goods even here, the ability of the federal government to operate will collapse. We are not there yet but this is the spectre the administration is worried about.

    In incarceration rates are proof of how bad the schools have become. Believe me, these people would not be institutionialized if they were properly brought up. They might be aggressive and criminally inclined but they wouldn’t be getting caught so much. Only the most disfunctional actually winds up in CDC. These black prisoners were once public school kids. I know strong schools can take low IQ students and raise them to stay out of trouble. I have seen it in the Catholic Schools of the 1950s-1960s who took working class kids of various races who were in no way college material. Even the ones who became criminals did well.

    The civil rights movement is when we went from public schools that segregated by ability, enforced discipline (by corporal punishment if needed) and rewarded accomplishment to the nothing we call schools today. Smart money doesn’t send their kids there anymore. We once educated the middle class and even the well to do in public schools. Not anymore (look at the stats for Los Angeles for example).

    There is no substantial improvement in average black sociology since 1965. The talented 10th are busy with the high life you can say, but the unemployment is heading off the scale for the average. Not to mention the premature death and sickness rates. Blacks will be completely dispossessed by Mexicans in the USA. Thanks a lot public schools (and welfare policy).

    There is no education crisis. We have decided not to educate, only to pacify. And if the suckers and their families think they really are educated, they can just blame their failures on themselves.

    Brave New World.

  • Caroline

    Nextset, I send my kids to urban public schools (sent, in one case — he’s in college) and I resent and dispute the comment that “smart money does not send” their kids to public schools.

    Actually, smart money does not spend $20,000-$30,000 a year for the same basic product (a K-12) education that’s available for free. To call that a DUBIOUS consumer decision is to choose a very, very mild and kind adjective. The adjectives that leap to mind and that I’m suppressing are far more derogatory.

  • Nextset

    Caroline, have you seen the Los Angeles Unified demographics? Do you know LA residents with children who are in the professions? What do they do for schools??

    Your own situation does not change the stats, and it doesn’t change the experience we all have working with the products of the public schools. Of course a bright child may go to public school and graduate and of course there are colleges for bright kids. Now why would you want to subject such a child to, say, Richmond Unified?

    I have friends in Los Angeles who are spending $25k per child to send 2 kids to grades 7-12. And as they tell me, that is not a particularly expensive or exclusive school. They do it because they are regulating who their children are exposed to as well as what their kids are taught and by who. And these parents went to public high schools in the bay area and elsewhere. In the Bay Area friends accomplish the same by moving to preferred public school neighborhoods well away from ghetto kids – Danville anyone?

    It is happening Caroline. And every time I see on this blog some liberal/socialist/collectivist nonsense going on at the OUSD schools I am reminded why good people keep their kids away.

    Brave New World.

  • Nextset

    Another thing: It appears “The Gap” is fixed, immutable, a biological construct. Biology affects behavior. To the extent we change the “Gap” over the generations we are also changing the biology. Or in our case watering down standards so that we can show different numbers and pretend we have changed people.

    People are not the same. You can’t make them the same by yelling at them or begging them to change. People do what they want and people want different things for reasons that are innate. People can’t help the way they don’t feel.

    The fact that some people want other people to be something else is their problem.

    Regardless of why things are the way they are, we are all stuck with life as it is. Unless you throw freedom out the window and start using force to modify people’s behavior. Good luck with that.

  • Anika

    Nextset, once again you hide behind a screen name to spew your negativity and racism on this blog. Who are you really? Typically I dismiss your comments for what they are: the ignorant ramblings of a hateful and sad individual, who makes sweeping generalizations about an entire race of people based on opinion, not fact. Where is your evidence that “you cannot infer that a graduate especially a black graduate is educated” or that “you can’t be sure the college grads – especially the blacks can write a business letter,” etc.? It is one thing to lament the current state of public education; it is another to make derogatory comments and assumptions about all black people. Are crime and poverty problems in the black community? Obviously. Are they also problems in America in general? Yes. So why are you placing the blame of the failures of this country solely on blacks? Yes, the US economy is in trouble, but no, it is not the fault of a black person at your job who didn’t compose a memo to your liking. The history of this country is complex and often sordid. Anyone as judgmental, pardon me, as thoughtful as you, should be able to also offer some equally harsh criticism of the whites who perpetrated slavery, reconstruction, and segregation on blacks in America for hundreds of years. Don’t worry; I won’t hold my breath waiting for that lengthy commentary.

    Nextset, it is unfortunate that all of your (obviously limited) experiences with blacks have led you to believe that you are of superior intelligence and moral character. My recommendation to you is to turn off your TV, log off your computer and get to know some real people. That person at work who didn’t write a stellar memo might actually be extraordinarily intelligent and interesting if you actually took the time to talk to him/her. Never let ignorance and fear be the basis of your arguments. Instead, work with facts and have some humility. After all, you are on an education blog, criticizing others and you misspelled “institutionalized” and “dysfunctional.”

    Brave New World? Only if we lose our compassion and our shared human identity.

  • Caroline

    Anika, I don’t know Nextset personally, but I believe that he is African-American, just for the record. (And, obviously, conservative.)

    Nextset, schools that deal with a critical mass of at-risk, high-need, low-income students become overwhelmed, and that’s the situation you view as the failure of public education. Public schools that don’t deal with that critical mass are in a different situation.

    I have friends and relatives in L.A. in both situations, public and private. My personal view is that if they have $25K per kid per year to spend on private, so be it, but it is not a smart consumer decision to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on something (a K-12 education) that they can get for free. And it’s just uninformed to look at those public schools that struggle — the ones faced with a critical mass of the most-challenging students — and infer that ALL public schools are like that.

    It’s their money, but it seems pretty unwise to spend $25K per kid per year without doing enough research to learn that.

  • On The Fence

    I come at this from the perspective of a mental health background and, of course, see the world through my own particular lense. It is not unusual for me to see people who report a 12th grade education, but no high school diploma. So, I was not at all surprised to read about the drop out data in the 12th grade. The people I see seem to get so close but then stop short of many accomplishments, including high school graduation. I often think that this is a byproduct of a profound lack of self worth, as the people I see almost universally have early trauma/abuse histories and people in their lives who have taught them how little they are valued. Sooner or later they seem to adopt the behaviors that reinforce thier own self-punishment via drugs, dropping out, losing thier kids, etc. I believe very strongly in most people’s ability to alter their internal belief systems and change their lives. Again, it is not surprising that this is my bent (the lense through which I see the world), given that I work in mental health.

    How does this relate to our public schools? I’m not entirely sure. Nextset has often spoken against the meaningless praise bestowed on some school children who aren’t actually truly making accomplishments, academic or behavioral, in an effort to ‘boost self esteem’. I would have to agree with him that this would not be helpful. We are all too astute to believe in false praise, and in the case of many of these kids, it cannot void thier own learned reality of being worthless. True self esteem will be a life long journey for many children, and probably outside the scope of traditional education.

    I’d have to agree with Caroline that for many healthier children (hopefully my own included), the public schools continue to be an option that IS viable and in many cases comparable to many of the privates. These kids have less emotional turmoil, and can usually take advantage of the public school opportunities that exist.

    This is just another perspective. To each their own reality.

  • Nextset

    Anika and Co: Sorry for you, you assume that I somehow am responsible for the numbers we have had over time. Or that I somehow create the problem.

    It doesn’t matter why or what it will take to change the way things are working. But for now, unless something new is discovered, yes it does seem to be that the groups have unequal distributions of high scorers. Put it more simply, talent in various things is distributed differently in the different groups of people.

    So no amount of flogging is going to change the performance, behavior or choices of free people.

    Does it make me unhappy to have interests that don’t run to the UC Berkeley School of Engineering? No. Now look at the racial distribution there. Asian…

    Your ire would be better placed in efforts to avoid the destruction of black society in CA and the USA by making sure the public schools turn out black students ready for work, the military, or higher education. And that means educational programs that produce results for them, not fantasy programs to get them all ready for Harvard.

    What part of watching black statistics climb into the morgue do you not understand? In 1960 it was not normal to see California Blacks, many who were only a generation or two at the most in the state – be unemployable, not have a driver’s license, be on felony probation, have unwanted children, etc.

    People have not changed a bit since 1960. Our public schools have changed a lot. They don’t equip the average black student to do well and support a family or even themselves.

    The heart of the education fads and nonsense I have seen since then is that if you “educate” these kids they will respond just like Ken and Barbie. And look at the results. Ken and Barbie have left the urban public schools. The needs of the urban kids are not the same. And then we have the Algebra requirement discussion again.

    If you think confronting you with the numbers is a hostile act, you are part of the problem. Black kids do not test by any measure the same as the Asians, Whites, Hispanics, etc. (And that includes the physical measures) All the groups are different with different areas of strenght. Deal with it.

    We all know how to boost accomplishment in kids. We just won’t do it for black kids. We’d rather expect them to be like Ken and Barbie and respond accordingly. And we cry when it doesn’t happen.

    You adjust the education program to fit the ability of the student. that’s why the schools typically split up the students with the various tracks in different campuses and programs. The ethnic groups do not resemble each other’s averages in this. So what. There will be people in each group at various levels but the distributions are different. So what. Insisting everybody is the same for purposes of vanity produces harm. And we are harming our black kids far more than the whites with all this. The proof is in the results which are becoming dire.

    This is an educational blog. We talk about educational policy and how we are or are not getting the performance from the students we expect. If you don’t take a realistic look at what we are working with we are never going to get the results we seek. The gap is not produced by educational policy. I cannot be fixed by educational policy. The Gap is here because people (group averages) are (physically) different and they like being different and they are not going to change because you have some great new idea to tell them about in a classroom.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/ Sharon

    Re: online trolls

    Something to be aware of from http://www.pa-lawpracticemanagement.com/?p=288

    “Now to the topic at hand — many of you have participated in an online message board or listserv and encountered a troll. A troll is someone who comes onto an online community looking to pick fights. A troll has two victory conditions: either everyone ends up talking about him, or no one talks at all. Unfortunately it can take only one troll to significantly squash meaningful interaction in an online forum. There are also unknowing trolls who are not mean-spirited, but have the same effect.”

    This may, or may not, be what is going on.

  • Nextset

    Sharon: I’m sure you are not used to people going nose to nose with you. We usually never do so in ordinary social interaction. So when it happens you are shocked, shocked!!

    Most of us set up our lives so that we don’t have to debate with people who flatly disagree with what we cling to. It’s not always pleasant. Well in public discourse you take on all comers. You are not supposed to like it. Debate keeps your own points sharp.

    If you think this is trolling, you don’t do trials.

    I recently spent Thanksgiving with relatives doing the hotel travel and shopping thing. We went to a very large mall, stayed at a hotel complex, had meals out at large restaurants. Some of the relatives are approaching 90 and there was discussion about what they have seen in California since the 1940s. And yes, we are black.

    We noticed a Negro free weekend. No black service people in the hotels restaurants and at the mall. This time the hotel maids were white (immigrants). We occasionally asked the food servers about themselves (immigrants – South America). The hotels and stores were packed.

    When I go to court I see black defendants, their friends and families, witnesses and victims. There are few black jurors. Blacks in the criminal and civil courts are doing very badly. They are not able to handle themselves well at all (relative to all the other ethnics).

    This is not the California we grew up in. Things are much much worse. And I blame the public schools for this mess, regardless of any participation of the families. The schools could have done a lot more to prepare people for adulthood. they don’t because that would make the students and perhaps their families unhappy (being tougher on them). At least that is our call.

    And I have a long line of educators in the family going back to before 1900.

    I see hordes of immigrants setting up shop and doing (relatively) just fine – in spite of the schools. When I blog here it is after dealing with people who can’t read, write, or think any better than children. It never ends and just gets worse somehow.

    It’s too bad if I annoy you. Perhaps you can respond with some information to make the point that things are not just getting worse. Please be assured that in person somebody like me, white black or asian, would never say anything to your face. We would just walk by and take care of number one & family. Perhaps the cyber environment does make it easier to vent. These points need to be made. More of the same post-1960 politically correct educational garbage is just going to make things worse for the endangered. That includes more of the “let’s get them ready for college” nonsense I read about here.

    We need to get them ready for work. Relatively few will complete college. Everybody needs an entry level job and the coaching to rise. We don’t give the lower class any such thing anymore with out schools.

    If you want to blog with people who will hold hands and agree with you all the time, it’s not working very well.

    Brave New World.

  • Nextset

    Caroline: When I heard about the amount of money my East Bay friends now in LA spend for their kids school I asked them about how common this is. We had a long conversation about just who goes to what schools and the choices and tradeoffs the workers and residents in LA are making.

    And these friends are very very serious people. They are 1st generation Americans on the husband’s side (the grandparents of the school kids were born in Europe-came to USA with the clothes on their backs and went to public schools). They know exactly what they are doing and what they want their kids to grow up to become. And it seems by the enrollment in the private schools that they have a lot of company.

    They said the alternative was to move far away and commute back into the city. They know others who do that. They have the earnings and assets and they feel find doing it this way. Putting the kids into LA Unified after puberty was never an option.

    Up here people would say the same about OUSD. I have friends with school aged kids in Danville. They themselves went to East Bay Schools. Not the next generation.

    I am sure that these people are quite competent to decide how to spend their money.

  • Union Supporter-But


    First, I want to preface what I have to say with I believe in a safety net – for children and adults.

    If you look at the decline in the African-American family, the beginning of the ascent of huge numbers of African-American single parent families living in poverty it began in the very late 60s and early 70s. That is when becoming a young mother gave a small check every month (a safety net, really) without requiring a girl to receive a high school diploma or get a job. It also let boys and men off the hook with the African American community when it came to supporting those children. Historically that is the period of the great chasm of the number of African-American women and children living in poverty.

    I do not have the answer. I do not think 12 – 17 year olds are ready for parenthood. I do believe that pre-teens and teens with children should have to go to school and perform at a basic level to get a check. (This excludes food, housing and medical care.)

    I do not agree with Nextset, but I do not agree with you either. Nextset seems to be saying African American students for the most part are inferior particularly those that have babies at a young age. You seem to say that more money thrown at the education of African American children will solve the problem. Both are misstatements.

    We need to look outside of Oakland because in our often-misguided attempts to create educational equity, we move the standard for grades (grade inflation) for African American students lower. Yes, they get into college, but met with color-blind rigor, they are in more of the remedial classes that any other ethnic group. We also do not require full academic English on school campus’ of African American students as we do any other English learner group (we do not classify Black English or Ebonics as a language) which requires rigorous standards of learning English.

    Communities outside of Oakland who have poured money into African American students and while there is movement in their education, it is not the money that moves learning. It is absolute standards-based education and academic language requirement for all students in the classroom. It is longer school years and homework clubs. Smaller classrooms do not work – we have shown this to be true time and again but we beat the drum because it seems counter-intuitive.

    So here’s what I say – pay teachers 50% more to work in title one schools. For that salary they must work 1.5 hours per day more. Those hours must be working directly with students. Teachers in title 1 schools must teach to the standards AT ALL TIMES – this is not teaching to the test, it is teaching to the standards. All of them including music, performing arts, visual arts, PE as well as Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies. Require the students in title 1 schools to increase their useful academic vocabulary by a minimum of 300 words per school year. Teachers who do not perform at this level in a title 1 school get 1/2 of a school year to improve, if they do not they need to be transferred out. We know that a teacher who teaches rigorously to all is the only way the students will learn.

    Students learning the material and proving they have learned the material through a combination of assessments, tests, portfolios and verbal panels drive grades, test scores, teacher retention and continued funding of the 50% incentive. If a group of teachers brings a school level up to the point where no students are removed (as in charter schools) and the number of students scoring at the advanced level in a school -AND ALL OTHER AREAS OF THE STATE STANDARDS are being performed at the same high level and can be demonstrated as above, the teacher receives a $10,000 bonus for the achievement. Principals as leaders of such schools would also receive a bonus and the district would be required to incorporate the recommendations of such teachers in other schools.

    Stop the automatic funding of teachers who do not teach to the state standards. If a teacher cannot give you the standards the students are working on that day then the teacher should be counseled and helped back on track, the teacher should have one year to begin to teach to the state standards, NOT THE TEST, BUT THE STANDARDS.

    African-American students are not getting an education and we as a society want to say, oh, poor children, let’s give you a nice new school, new technology, new books – but all studies point to the teacher teaching all students at high levels as having the greatest impact on student learning. We really need to get back to basics. We really need to teach African-American students who become young parents that they will not receive money without an education and they will not receive grades they haven’t earned. Immigrant communities who work hard, value education, delay parenthood and who support the work that is done by the student in school have the most successful standards of living. We need to do the same for our African American communities – they do not deserve hand-outs, but a hand up.

  • Nextset

    Union Supporter: I have to remind people of this a lot: “Inferior” is your term. DIFFERENT is mine. I don’t feel inferior to anybody – and I am not fluent in calculus like some other people. My talent lies elsewhere and I have learned to make a nice living with it. I have gone to school with some people who are really great at calculus. They can have it.

    It is our refusal to see the differences that leads to beating the black children about the head (in a sense) and trying to kick (too many of) them into college prep classes when it is clear that that isn’t going to work. Meanwhile similarly less-talented whites and other groups are nailing down the technical and semi-skilled jobs. And the black folks have never heard what a respiratory therapist is – or all the other occupations. Maybe I’m not setting this out well.

    There are a lot of ways to make it in this society and if you are going to work with your hands and your back you need to start early. OUSD and the other urban schools are not doing enough to make their black kids – who are a large block of the failing students – function in society. They need more discipline and they need more indoctrination (than other groups). They don’t need to ever do what they want, when they want & if they want. Their talent doesn’t lie that way. They are different and that’s why they are not going to respond like Ken and Barbie. Educrat refusal to see this contributes to the continuing decline of this demographic.

    And we do have to talk about it because this demographic are the problem children, not the Jews, Asian, Whites, etc (in the East Bay at least).

    The people who chant “racist” while continuing the destruction of the black school populations are the real racists.

    As far as I’m concerned, OUSD can start a school of hotel housekeeping, or any other menial vocation, and work it up from there to surgical technician. The primary goal of OUSD should be to get the kids ready for work or military and only the relatively few with suitable (aptitude, math & verbal) scores should be in college prep. I don’t think this is ever going to happen. When age 18 comes around half the class can fall off a cliff as far as the school is concerned, time’s up.

    Or maybe I’m uninformed and OUSD does plan a future for it’s kids. Including those who walk away without graduating.

  • Caroline

    Union Supporter But … This is not at all what I’m saying; straw man:

    “You seem to say that more money thrown at the education of African American children will solve the problem.”

    I do believe that our schools are underfunded. I am not saying that more funding will in and of itself resolve the achievement gap. And I object to the disparaging term “thrown at the problem,” which is consistently used to disparage schools and the notion of funding them adequately.

    I don’t buy this magical dot-i’s-cross-t’s solution:

    “If a teacher cannot give you the standards the students are working on that day then the teacher should be counseled and helped back on track, the teacher should have one year to begin to teach to the state standards, NOT THE TEST, BUT THE STANDARDS.”

    Some really crappy teachers could parrot the standard they’re supposedly working on that day. That’s really not the mark of a good teacher.

    My issue is the phony “miracles” and the charter-school bag o’tricks that are pretending to solve these problems — talk about getting money thrown at them!

    By the way, I was just in Oakland doing an errand, and noticed that I was passing American Indian Public Charter School. There were about 25 students in the yard. Funny how that school has been hailed by governors, presidents and probably God Himself for closing the achievement gap, considering all the students except three appeared to be Asian, mostly girls (I parked and got out to check it out). Maybe they kept all the AA and Latino students inside. Or, gosh, perhaps they’ve just gotten rid of them?

  • Union Supporter-But

    See the top 10 high schools in the nation. One is a Santa Cruz charter school with high academics.