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

The state released dropout and graduation rates for districts throughout California last month, showing that on average, 80.2 percent of students in the class of 2013 graduated in four years after starting as freshmen in 2009-10. This was up from just under 79 percent in 2012.

Meanwhile, the statewide average dropout rate fell from 13.1 percent in 2012 to 11.6 percent in 2013. In Contra Costa County, seven districts surpassed the state average graduation rate, while two fell below it. County dropout averages were not quite as stellar, with five districts posting lower dropout rates, three higher and one mirroring the state.

Here’s a rundown of the countywide results, showing the 2012 graduation and dropout rates followed by 2013 graduation and dropout rates.

2012 Grad. Rate 2012 Dropout Rate 2013 Grad. Rate 2013 Dropout Rate

State 78.9 13.1 80.2 11.6
Contra Costa County 83.9 10.1 85.8 8.3
Acalanes 97.7 1.1 97.8 0.9
Antioch 74.4 16.8 77.6 11.6
John Swett 87.7 8.5 88.8 7.2
Liberty 86.3 3.5 86.4 4.5
Martinez 87.2 6.7 88.4 9.7
Mt. Diablo 81.2 14.2 82.6 12.4
Pittsburg 70.2 21.6 71.3 2.5
San Ramon Valley 97.0 1.6 98.4 0.4
West Contra Costa 75.7 18.2 79.9 13.2

The San Ramon Valley district had the highest graduation rate and lowest dropout rate in 2013, inching past Acalanes, which held that honor in 2012. More than 98 percent of San Ramon Valley seniors graduated on time last year, while less than 1 percent dropped out during their four years in high school.

San Ramon Valley spokesman Terry Koehne said his district’s impressive numbers were the result of “a quality teaching staff that truly cares about kids and a very engaged parent community.”

The tiny John Swett district also made gains, increasing its graduation rate by more than 1 percentage point to 88.8 percent, while reducing its dropout rate by about the same percentage to 7.2 percent. Superintendent Rob Stockberger credited the growth to teachers and administrators at John Swett High as well as alternatives for students who need more support.

“I think staff does a good job working with teens, but if the student becomes at risk, Willow Continuation High School becomes a really viable alternative,” he said. “And in some extreme cases, we work with the county’s Golden Gate Community School to come up with other viable options for students who are struggling in a larger environment.”

The Liberty Union district saw slight improvement in its graduation rate, growing by one tenth of a percentage point to 86.4 percent. But, its dropout rate for students in the class of 2013 compared to the class of 2012 rose 1 percentage point to 4.5 percent.

Superintendent Eric Volta said these percentages don’t tell the whole story because the class of 2013 was larger than the class of 2012. Even though more students dropped out, he said, more students graduated. In the class of 2012, 1,487 students graduated after four years and 60 dropped out. In the class of 2013, 1,573 students graduated on time, while 82 dropped out.

“For whatever reasons, we lost more seniors last year,” he said. “Had we kept the same number of seniors, our dropout rate would have gone down.”

Most of the students who dropped out were enrolled in independent study or continuation high schools, he said.

Although the Antioch district’s overall graduation rate fell below the state average, it showed significant improvement from 2012-2013, growing more than 3 percentage points. Its dropout rate plummeted more than 5 percentage points to 11.6 percent, equaling the state average.

“It’s been a real concerted and focused effort,” said Superintendent Donald Gill.

State, county, district, and school graduation and dropout rates are available by visiting http://www.contracostatimes.com/data/ci_25654370/data-center-california-graduation-and-dropout-rates-2012.

Staff writers Joyce Tsai and Paul Burgarino contributed to this report.

How do you think schools could improve graduation and dropout rates even more?

Posted on Friday, May 9th, 2014
Under: Antioch school district, Education, John Swett school district, Liberty district, San Ramon Valley school district | No Comments »

Two Contra Costa County districts are in financial jeopardy

The John Swett and Mt. Diablo school districts in Contra Costa County are among 188 statewide that have signalled in their most recent budget reports that they may not be able to pay their bills within three years.

Here is more information about the budget reports, from a California Department of Education news release:

“SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson warned today that 2.6 million California children now attend schools in districts that are in financial jeopardy—the highest number of financially troubled districts in state history.

‘This is the kind of record no one wants to set. Across California, parents, teachers, and administrators are increasingly wondering how to keep their schools’ lights on, their bills paid, and their doors open,’ Torlakson said. ‘The deep cuts this budget crisis has forced—and the uncertainties about what lies ahead—are taking an unprecedented and unacceptable toll on our schools.’

The state’s Second Interim Status Report for 2011-12 also shows a record-high 188 local educational agencies (LEAs) are either in negative or qualified financial status. That’s up 61 LEAs from the First Interim Status Report for 2011-12 issued in February, and up 45 from the Second Interim Report for 2010-11 issued a year ago.

The new report shows 12 LEAs received negative certifications and 176 received qualified certifications. Students in these 188 LEAs represent more than 2.6 million of California’s 6.2 million students attending schools in districts with serious financial challenges, up from nearly two million students in February.

Twice a year, the California Department of Education receives Notice of Interim Certifications on the financial status of the state’s 1,037 LEAs, comprised of school districts, county offices of education, and joint powers agencies. The certifications are classified as positive, qualified, or negative.

A positive certification is assigned when an LEA will meet its financial obligations for the current and two subsequent fiscal years.

A qualified certification is assigned when an LEA may not meet its financial obligations for the current or two subsequent fiscal years. This certification allows the LEA’s county office of education to provide assistance to the district.

A negative certification—the most serious of the classifications—is assigned when an LEA will be unable to meet its financial obligations for the remainder of the current year or for the subsequent fiscal year. This certification means the LEA’s county office of education may intervene in the district’s finances.

The assistance or intervention by the county office may include assigning external consultants, requiring a district fiscal recovery plan, or even disallowing certain district expenditures.

This new list is a compilation of the certifications by LEAs that were due April 16, 2012, and cover the financial and budgetary status of the districts for the period ending January 31, 2012. The certifications reflect whether the LEAs are able to meet their financial obligations for the remainder of the current fiscal year and subsequent two fiscal years, based on projections at that point in time.

These certifications predate the Governor’s May Revision to the proposed 2012-13 state budget. Because these Interim Status Reports are snapshots in time, the LEAs’ financial status may have changed since these certifications were collected.”

In the East Bay, four school districts filed “qualified” second interim reports: Emery and Oakland in Alameda County and John Swett and Mt. Diablo in Contra Costa County.

Here is a link to a list of all the negative or qualified second interim status reports for FY 2011-12: http://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/fi/ir/second1112.asp

What do you think the John Swett and Mt. Diablo school districts should do to cut costs and/or raise revenues?

Posted on Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
Under: Education, John Swett school district, Mt. Diablo school district | 59 Comments »