The dropout rate for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) fell from 31.7 percent in School Year (SY) 2006–07 to 26.4 percent in SY 2007–08 and represented one of the largest improvements in the state, according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times.
The article was careful to point out that the dropout rate was an approximation. “The dropout rate is a four-year estimate based on two years of data that, for the first time, tracks individual students,” the article reads. “But it can’t tabulate dropouts who are listed as having left a California public school for another school. The graduation rate uses four years of data, but does not yet track individuals.”
In a separate article, the Los Angeles Daily News points out that the state will not be able to accurately track whether ninth-graders graduate after four years until next year. “District student data that tracks individual students for a full four years reveals that many schools continue to fall closer to the 50 percent margin of graduation that state data reveals,” said Maria Brenes, a lead organizer at Inner City Struggle, an organization focused on reforming low-performing urban schools. Independent estimates, such as one done by Chris Swanson of the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, peg LAUSD’s graduation rate at 47.7 percent.
School officials partly credit the district’s dropout prevention unit, a program focused on finding and re-enrolling dropouts, and identifying at-risk students and providing them with additional support. Administrators also cite the benefit of converting large high schools into clusters of smaller academies, increasing teacher support, and instituting a mandatory study hall.
The Los Angeles Daily News also reports that California has made significant progress in tracking student achievement and now uses a Statewide Student Identifiers system. “Since May, the state allowed schools to change their data by allowing counselors and administrators to find students on their drop-out lists and verify their status or in some cases re-enroll them into school,” the article reads. It notes that the data system helped school officials discover 16,000 students who were counted twice and about 20,000 students who had been inaccurately counted as dropouts.
Both articles spotlight several high schools that saw dramatic increases in their dropout rates. Particularly notable were Birmingham High School, which saw its dropout rate fall by 51 percent from 2007 to 2008 and Reseda High School, which saw its rate decline by 42 percent.