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California’s Graduation Rate for Latinos Improving, but Still Lagging

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California high schools graduate Latino, black and low-income students at “alarmingly low rates,” according to The Education Trust-West researchers who analyzed recently released California schools data. But those rates are improving, according to newly released numbers from the California Department of Education.

Latinos graduating in the class of 2011 made greater gains than the average for students of all backgrounds, despite lagging the overall state average.

The class of 2011 graduation rate for Latinos was 70.4 percent, up 2.2 percentage points from the previous year. That lagged the 76.3 percent average for all California students, which increased by 1.5 percentage points, and the 85.5 percent for white students. The dropout rate for Latinos was 17.7 percent, compared with 14.4 percent for all students and 8.9 percent for white students.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson called the results “generally good news,” The Los Angeles Times reported.

“Even though these rates are improving, at the rate California is going, it will take us 13 years to close the graduation gap between Latino and African-American students and their white peers,” said Arun Ramanathan, executive director of Oakland-based Education Trust-West. “It’s time we stopped talking about this problem and invested in the strategies that top districts and schools are using to fix it.”

Ed Trust-West also identified some high schools that are bright spots, including the Castro Valley Unified School District and the West Covina Unified School District.

The group also recently released another study, “Repairing the Pipeline: A look at the gaps  in California’s high school to college transition,”  finding that just 45 percent of Latinos who graduated in the high school class of 2010 enrolled in college. In addition, most Latino students begin their higher education experience in community colleges, where they are less likely to earn a credential or transfer.

That report made several suggestions on how to address the problem:

  • High schools should provide opportunities for credit-recovery to reduce dropout rates;
  • High school graduation requirements must be aligned to college entrance requirements for a four-year university and universities must receive incentives for being successful with students of color;
  • Successful high schools should share best practices with struggling schools;
  • Dual-enrollment course options through community colleges should be expanded.