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A closer look at graduation and dropout rates in Contra Costa County

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, April 12th, 2013 at 4:27 pm in Education.

The state’s annual release of graduation and dropout rates earlier this week showed that graduation rates improved in four Contra Costa County districts, but dropped in five.

On the other side of the spectrum, dropout rates improved in six districts, grew worse in two and remained the same in one.

On both measures, overall countywide results were stronger than those statewide, with 83.5 percent of students graduating in four years in Contra Costa County, compared to 78.5 percent throughout California. Of the nine county districts that include high schools, three had graduation rates that fell below the state average, while six exceeded it.

Statewide, a higher percentage of students graduated in 2012 than in 2011, while fewer dropped out, said Tom Torlakson, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, when he released the results Tuesday.

“While I am glad to announce that we are moving in the right direction,” he said, “the fact remains that we must keep moving to ensure that every California student graduates ready to succeed in the world they will find outside our classrooms.”

Here’s how Contra Costa County districts stacked up in 2011 and 2012. Please note that the two percentages don’t add up to 100 because they don’t account for students who have left California or are still in school.

Acalanes: 97.3 percent graduation rate in 2012, up from 96.7 in 2011; 1.3 percent dropout rate in 2012, same as 2011 rate.

Antioch: 74.5 percent graduation rate in 2012, up from 73.8 in 2011; 14.6 percent dropout rate in 2012, down from 18.0 percent in 2011.

John Swett: 87.7 percent graduation rate in 2012, up from 87.6 percent in 2011; 8.5 percent dropout rate in 2012, down from 8.8 percent in 2011.

Liberty: 85.4 percent graduation rate in 2012, down from 85.6 percent in 2011; 4.0 dropout rate in 2012, down from 5.2 in 2011.

Martinez: 85.0 percent graduation rate in 2012, down from 89.9 in 2011; 8.8 dropout rate in 2012, up from 4.2 in 2011.

Mt. Diablo: 81.1 percent graduation rate in 2012, down from 81.9 in 2011; 14.2 percent dropout rate in 2012, up from 11.7 in 2011.

Pittsburg: 70.1 percent graduation rate in 2012, up from 66.0 in 2011; 21.3 percent dropout rate in 2012, down from 25.9 percent in 2011.

San Ramon Valley: 97.0 graduation rate in 2012, down from 97.1 in 2011; 1.6 percent dropout rate in 2012, up from 1.5 in 2011.

West Contra Costa: 75.2 percent graduation rate in 2012, down from 77.0 percent in 2011; 18.6 percent dropout rate in 2012, up from 18.1 percent in 2011.

Contra Costa County: 83.5 percent graduation rate in 2012, up from 83.1 percent in 2011; 10.1 percent dropout rate in 2012, down from 10.6 percent in 2011.

State: 78.5 percent graduation rate in 2012, up from 77.1 percent in 2011; 13.2 percent dropout rate in 2012, down from 14.7 in 2011.

Alameda County districts in the Tri-Valley area surpassed the statewide results as well as those countywide. Here’s how they compared:

Dublin: 92.3 percent graduation rate in 2012, down from 92.7 percent in 2011; 4.1 percent dropout rate in 2012, up from 2.1 percent in 2011.

Livermore Valley: 90.8 percent graduation rate in 2012, down from 91.1 percent in 2011; 7.5 percent dropout rate in 2012, up from 7.0 percent in 2011.

Pleasanton: 95.7 graduation rate in 2012, up from 95.6 in 2011; 2.1 percent dropout rate in 2012, same as 2011 rate.

Alameda County: 79.4 percent graduation rate in 2012, up from 78.0 percent in 2011; 13.4 percent dropout rate in 2012, down from 15.1 percent in 2011.

Complete statewide results are available by visiting Select “district” or “school” and “graduates.”

What do you think East Bay high schools could do to further improve graduation rates and prevent dropouts?

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41 Responses to “A closer look at graduation and dropout rates in Contra Costa County”

  1. Doctor J Says:

    Steven Lawrence’s accomplishment after THREE YEARS of his superintendency: Mt. Diablo: 81.1 percent graduation rate in 2012, down from 81.9 in 2011; 14.2 percent dropout rate in 2012, up from 11.7 in 2011.

    Time for an immediate change ! The students deserve it !

  2. Doctor J Says:

    How bad are the high school graduation rates and drop out rates ? BAD ! I compared the five standard high schools. College Park’s drop out rate nearly doubled ! Every high school except for Northgate had their dropout rate increase. Ygnacio Valley had had the highest dropout rate: a whopping 17.7% — and Bill Morones got the promotion to SASS Director of Secondary — go figure. Mount’s was 15.6% — ouch. Northgate cut their dropout rate by 1.8% to 2.5% — good job. Gradudation rates: College Park and Mt. Diablo’s graduation rates dropped, but Concord, Northgate, and Ygnacio Valley all had slight increases. Northgate’s graduation rate was 96.2% while the two lowest were Mount at 81.5% and Ygnacio Valley at 81.6%.

    I think you have to ask two questions: How long can we wait for a change in the top leadership ? Are the SASS principal coaches really doing the job ?

    [Published earlier under a different thread but totally relevant to this thread.]

  3. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s my story on the CA Distinguished Schools:

    SRVUSD had SIX – nearly half of all those in the county. Congrats to Foothill and Diablo View middle schools, along with CPHS, for being named distinguished in MDUSD.

  4. g Says:

    Just think how much worse those percentages would be if graduation requirements hadn’t been lowered to more closely align with the need to make statistics ‘appear’ to be improving under his tenure!

  5. Doctor J Says:

    Isn’t it ironic that College Park was named a California Distinguished school when its graduation rate dropped and its drop out rate nearly doubled ? Kind of destroys the significance of the award.

  6. Theresa Harrington Says:

    This could help explain why CPHS was named a CA Distinguished School despite a sinking graduation rate and rising dropout rate:

    Of all the “signature practices” touted on the CA Distinguished School website, NONE are aimed at improving graduation rates or reducing dropouts.

  7. Really? Says:

    To prevent drop out rates and increase graduation rates, bring back vocational schools. Not every child can or should go to college. The world will always need plumbers, electricians, car repair technicians and other trades professionals. High school vocational studies will lead to trade school, which will lead to jobs that can last a lifetime and pay enough to have a good life.

  8. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#6 When I ran your link, it didn’t even list College Park as a Distinguished School.

  9. Doctor J Says:

    @G#4 Now you know why Steven Lawrence wants to wait four years before raising graduation requirements. Looked like the Board the other night was pretty much in favor of raising them immediately.

  10. Mika Says:

    Raise the graduation requirements! We need students to achieve more, not less. SASS Office, Mr. Morones in particilar, what have you done to raise secondary school test scores and graduation rates, wasn’t that the purpose of your assignment? A lot of money spent on outside consultants to train our teachers, but negative results. MDUSD need new, effective leadership. Our kids are not getting their needs met.

  11. Doctor J Says:

    @Mika, Bill Morones has absolutely a zero record in raising API scores significantly at any school he has been at — and he has bounced around plenty. Now if you were a guy, would he be a fun guy to go drinking beer with ? Absolutely.

  12. vindex Says:

    I’m going to state what everyone else hasn’t. The problems at YVHS and MDHS are not lousy teachers or lousy administrators. They have been awful schools for at least 20 years. Demographics folks. I’m not a racist at all.. I’m actually the minority in my family… However, in the Latino culture there is a huge battle going on. Become Educated and your too “american or white”. That is the problem at YVHS. At MDHS you have students being bused in from Pittsburg and spend two minutes talking to these students (I have) and you will find out that their lives are mainly in utter chaos. School is the least of their concerns. You can practice best practices, higher consultants, dump money at these schools.. but until you deal with the problems (Culture change and family issues) you are going to see these problems continue

  13. Doctor J Says:

    Vindex, if you want to be inspired to believe that all children of all races can excel in education read the story and watch the movie about Jaime Escalante. Here is a capsul of what he did for minority students in East LA and then in Sacramento.

  14. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Also, more recently, Ed Trust-West identified four school districts that are having success with similarly challenging student populations, including Baldwin Park Unified in Los Angeles County, which makes great efforts to involve parents in their children’s education and is pushing English Language Development in elementary school so that English Learners have a better chance for success when they get to middle and high schools:

  15. Doctor J Says:

    I just heard that Steven Lawrence agreed to donate $5,000 of MDUSD money to the Academy Awards yet he says there is no money to buy projector bulbs for the classrooms. I am so sick and tired of Steven Lawrence’s hypocricy. How Linda Mayo and Lynne Dennler continue to support this hypocrite is beyond me. Steven would be much better off in buying $5,000 worth of the book to inspire MDUSD teachers: Escalante: The Best Teacher in America by Jay Mathews. Does the Board support donating $5,000 to the Academy Awards when the district refuses to buy replacement projecor bulbs ?

  16. Theresa Harrington Says:

    If the district ever starts prioritizing expenditures according to the strategic plan, then perhaps Lawrence will be forced to spend money on classroom expenditures that instead of on a “feel good” event that may build employee morale, but does not directly benefit students.
    The board could also consider lowering the threshold for expenditures Lawrence is authorized to approve on his own. The FCMAT rep told me many superintendents are only authorized to spend $15,000 without board approval. Trustee Lynne Dennler should ask Lawrence what is being cut so that he can donate 5,000 to the academy awards.

  17. Doctor J Says:

    When your name is on the Board agenda for dismissal, there is only one way to buy the union support — pay for it . . . with district money that has not been budgeted for the purpose. I hope the teachers realize that the $5000 from the district came out of their classrooms. If Guy Moore can’t put on an awards ceremoney that pays for itself, it should not be put on. Any deficit will come out of MDEA union dues paid by the teachers.

  18. lamar anderson Says:

    Dear Theresa Harrington: you are doing an outstandoing
    job of reporting the educational results. Can you
    please provide me with the breakdown of drop-outs per
    hispanic and african american students at the pittsburg
    unified school district? We have the highest drop-out
    rate. please email me with that data please.

  19. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Thanks, I can email you the data, but I’ll also post the link to it, in case others are interested:

    The dropout rate for Hispanics in the Pittsburg district was 21.3 percent, which mirrored the district’s overall rate. You are correct that this was the highest dropout rate in the county.
    The dropout rate for African-American students was even higher, at 28.9 percent. Overall, the Pittsburg district had 159 dropouts in 2012, including 79 who were Hispanic and 58 who were African American.

    By comparison, the MDUSD overall dropout rate was 14.2 percent:

    But the dropout rates for Hispanics and African-Americans was much higher — nearly as high as the dropout rates in Pittsburg. In MDUSD, the dropout rate for Hispanics was 21.2 percent and the dropout rate for African-Americans was 25.5 percent. Overall, the district had 329 dropouts in 2012, including 161 who were Hispanic and 35 who were African-American.

    Both the Pittsburg and Mt. Diablo districts have been identified as significantly disproportionate in their identification of African-Americans for special education. In addition, MDUSD has been identified as disproportionate in its identification of African-Americans and Hispanics for suspensions and expulsions. Obviously, both districts also have a significant problem with these students dropping out — which has been shown in studies as being one of the outcomes for students who are repeatedly suspended and expelled. Will the two districts’ disproportionality plans be enough to reverse this trend?

  20. Anon Says:

    As a parent who works my butt off to raise money for our schools, I am utterly disgusted and offended by Dr. Lawrence giving $5000 of MDUSD money to a social event. We have teachers who don’t have enough paper and other supplies to do their jobs effectively. This is so wrong!

  21. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Perhaps this could be raised under “other business” at tonight’s discussion with the PH City Council and Dr. Lawrence could explain to the community why he felt this was a priority and what budget line item he took this money from. This could apply to the discussion of AB1575, since some schools are reportedly having to cancel educational opportunities such as outdoor education field trips, which that $5,000 could have helped support.

  22. Doctor J Says:

    Anon#20 You are so right. Steven Lawrence is a HYPOCRITE. If I knew how to bold it on this blog and increase the font size, I would ! He needs to be dismissed for cause tomorrow. He is killing this district. He just wanted a discount to get support from staff.

  23. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Speaking of supporting schools, staff and students, YVHS is hoping for a good turnout for their spring musical, “Guys and Dolls” this weekend and next weekend:

  24. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, are you going to have a live blog tonight ? What happened last night ? Maybe after public comment you can skip down to starbuck’s and up load the public comments while the board is deliberating ? You’ll be back in time for the finale. 🙂

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, I’ll do a live blog. I’m just setting up a blog with the agenda now. Our Pleasant Hill reporter, Lisa White, is writing a story about last night’s meeting. She said a lot of Pleasant Hill MS parents are not happy about NCLB transfers coming in from other schools. She also said AB1575 was discussed quite a bit. She said the superintendent was there and that Deb Cooksey explained AB1575. Since she doesn’t know Greg Rolen, she wasn’t sure if he was there. But she said that if he was, he didn’t speak.

    If I shoot public comments using my ipad, I may be able to load them in the parking lot. Using my flipcam, it takes longer because I have to download the videos to my laptop, them upload them to YouTube.

    Speaking of YouTube, I would like to take this opportunity to remind district staff that the public does not need permission to videotape staff reports during public meetings. District administrators should explain this to staff so they won’t be surprised if someone videotapes their reports, including Joe Estrada. I post these videos so that people who were unable to attend the meeting can see what happened – or so people who were there can review what happened. As has been pointed out, the district appears to be slow to get the minutes done, so it is helpful if the public can find out what happened without having to wait for the minutes.

  26. Doctor J Says:

    There are two starbucks with free wifi within a mile: one at the corner of Concord and Landana and the other down Willow Creek.

  27. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, but I’d hate to miss the report out. My ipad has 4G capability, so I don’t need Wi-Fi to use it. I’m also supposed to be able to create a “hot spot” for my laptop with it, although I’ve never tried that. Maybe tonight would be a good time to try it!

  28. Doctor J Says:

    The Landana store is only a mile a away and the Willow Pass store is just 1.8 miles away. Those are just 5 minute trips. Landana probably takes the same amount of time becuase of all the speed bumps. LOL.

  29. Theresa Harrington Says:

    For those interested in looking at the big picture, the SRVUSD and Las Trampas PTAs are sponsoring a Legislative Advocacy Day on Friday in San Ramon:

    Registration deadline is tomorrow.

  30. Anon Says:

    TH #29, Thank you for posting this but I for one do not want to hear the same old 30 years or garbage that they have been spinning. Real change comes with research and change with the times.

  31. School Teacher Says:

    @vindex #12

    I applaud your directness in making your comment. In my opinion, there are three factors that influence overall school performance- teacher, student, and family. Each of those factors play a role in infuencing the overall success of the student, and each has a “culture” that influences them (and that culture can differ from one location to another). In my opinion, when it comes to media coverage, the only factor that gets consistent mention (and usually in a less than positive way) is the teacher. But, the student and his/her family play just as important roles. I appreciate your willingness to offer that even if a teacher is doing things the right way, that doesn’t guarantee success if the other factors don’t do their part. Some of the greatest success stories I have seen as a teacher involve a student from a lower socioeconomic background achieving adademic success. But, in many of those stories, the student in a way moved away from the “culture” in which they lived in order to achieve that academic success. It is not an easy decision to make for various reasons, but these success stories were willing to make it.

    As for Dr. J’s reference to Jaime Escalante in #13, I am sure he was an excellent teacher. But, I will also point out that he was clear that his success at Garfield was not instantaneous, and took a few years to develop, and in setting up his program, he had the backing of administration in denying students access to extracurricular activities if their grades fell below a passing level. In many ways, he was an old school teacher in how he approached his belief in education. As he was quoted in one the summaries I read, his belief was hard work for the teacher as well as hard work for the student. And apparently he believed in consequences for the student when they didn’t perform well. I’m not sure I would say that philosophy is deeply embedded in our schools today. But, it appears to be part of the lower socioeconomic schools being able to show progress. If the students aren’t being successful, there is quick action taken (hopefully with consequences if they don’t do their part) to get them to “do something” about it, not just talk to them.

  32. Theresa Harrington Says:

    To see what Californians think is important in education, including teacher evaluations, here’s my story on the lastest PPIC survey:

  33. g Says:

    In this district that teacher would get a “bonus,” be promoted, and there would be a cover-up.

  34. Theresa Harrington Says:

    For those interested in looking at education issues statewide, EdSource is holding a symposium May 4 focused on: “Transforming Public Education: What’s next for students, teachers and schools?”

  35. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a study that says lower-qualified teachers are often placed in low-performing schools:

    Is this true in MDUSD?

  36. Doctor J Says:

    Interesting study but a difficult problem to overcome in the short run. I recall citing an article maybe about a year ago, and I think it may have been “local” in California, where a Supt replaced the principal and let the new principal “recruit” teachers from other schools in the district and have them reassigned, even if they didn’t want to. As I recall, there was a huge turnaround in the learning and API scores jumped dramatically. It was like having an all-star team of teachers. The lesson is that low socio-economic and ethnic children can learn if the teachers believe in them and have good teaching skills. Wish I could find that article again.

  37. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    Great article Theresa –

    S Lawrence doesnt see how MDUSD can do this? He needs to read the paragraph that states Oakland has made this a priority, using it’s strategic plan, and grants to help fund …

  38. Theresa Harrington Says:

    HFO: I don’t believe that MDUSD’s recently revised strategic plan included more rigorous graduation requirements, so it is not a priority right now. However, a committee is working on coming up with a recommendation regarding new graduation requirements, so we’ll have to wait and see what kinds of supports they suggest. The strategic plan does include Rti, which in concept is supposed to provide the interventions and supports necessary to help students succeed. In practice in MDUSD, that remains to be seen.

  39. Doctor J Says:

    SASS’s predecessor, C&I were trained in Rti, and so were many schools — but without leadership to implement, the training just became an adult field trip at taxpayer expense. When are we going to get a report on Morones’ $20,000 Whittier trip ?

  40. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    TH #37 – that is my point. Instead of stating the district should move this up in priority and find (legal) creative ways to fund support for the students, S Lawrence gives excuses. Instead of a “can do” spirit, he comes off as negative and blames this on money woes. It’s always something else, someone else …

  41. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is the blog post that appeared in the Contra Costa Times on Sunday regarding a new PPIC poll that shows a majority of Californians support the governor’s Local Control Funding Formula:

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