SAMOHI — It’s a good time to be a cap and gown salesman in Santa Monica.

In 2013, the Santa Monica High School graduation rate rose to 96.5 percent, up from 92.8 percent in 2012 and 85 percent in 2010, according to statistic released Tuesday from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

The district’s graduation rate is 13 percentage points higher than the state average and 16 higher than the county average. The district’s rate has also improved at a faster pace than both the state and county.

“SMMUSD always outperforms the region and the state in graduation rates so it’s not a surprise to see improvement in that area,” said Board of Education member Oscar de la Torre. “We also have more than a hundred students in the continuation school. Many students fall through the cracks and Olympic High School is a great option for them.”

The graduation rate at Olympic, the district’s award-winning continuation high school, was not released.

“Since continuation high schools are designed specifically to serve students who are at risk of not completing high school graduation requirements, it would be inappropriate to hold them to the same accountability measures as comprehensive high schools,” said Dr. Maureen Bradford, the district’s Director of Assessment, Research and Evaluation.

Graduation rates rose among all recorded racial and ethnic groups at Samohi in the 2012-13 school year, the district said. Rates among white, black, Latino, and Asian students are all at 95 percent and higher.

The graduation rate also rose among socio-economically disadvantaged students and students with learning disabilities but flat-lined among those for whom English is a second language. Districtwide the graduation rate for these students fell to 80 percent.

“Seeing the disaggregated results is very encouraging,” said Dr. Terry Deloria, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. “The gains for nearly all groups are quite positive. We will have to do further analysis of our English learners in order to determine what may have contributed to the one-year decline for that particular group of students.”

De la Torre said that the struggle is more complicated than a language barrier.

“The process of immigrating alone is a traumatic experience for young people,” he said. “During the period of adjustment we can help the young people so they can succeed. Having this data, having the administrators that focus on this data helps. Maybe we could start doing surveys with students that have graduated, or even for those that dropped out.”

The graduation rate among students with learning disabilities rose the most, from 79.2 percent in 2012 to 91.3 percent last school year.

To determine the graduation rate, officials tracked any student who entered one of the district high schools during ninth through 12th grade. There are a variety of reasons why a student might not be included in the graduation rate, one of which is if they drop out.

In 2010, 12 percent of the district’s students dropped out but it was down to 1.1 percent last school year.

“Samohi students and staff commit themselves to excellence on a daily basis,” said Principal Eva Mayoral. “It is phenomenal to see that investment pay off in such a profound way.”

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