State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today reported California’s cohort graduation rate climbed for the fifth year in a row in 2014 to a record high, with the biggest jump taking place among English learners.

Among students who started high school in 2010-11, 80.8 percent graduated with their class in 2014, up 0.4 of a percentage point from the year before. The California graduation rate has increased substantially since the class of 2010 posted a 74.7 percent rate.

Locally, of Santa Monica High School’s 695 graduation eligible students the graduation rate was 95.5 percent for the 2013-14 school year, down marginally from the 96.6 percent the year before. Of Malibu High’s 181 eligible students, the graduation rate was 96.7 in 2013-14 school year, and 97.2 the year before.

Statewide, the graduation rates of most student groups also rose in 2014. The graduation rate among English learners increased 2.2 percentage points from the year before and is now at 65.3 percent. Locally, Samohi’s English learners (55 students) graduated at a rate of 87.3 percent. The school’s Special Education rate (49 students) was 89.8 percent and among socioeconomically disadvantaged students (269 students) the rate was 94.8 percent. All were within half a percentage point of their 2013 levels.

Malibu’s English Learners (14 students) had a rate of 85.7 percent, Special Education (24 students) had a rate of 91.7 percent and socioeconomically disadvantaged students (31 students) had a rate of 93.6 percent. In the 2012-13 school year Malibu has no English Learners, and graduated 100 percent of the other categories (14 Special Education Students/28 socioeconomically disadvantaged students).

For Hispanic or Latino students, the statewide rate is 76.4 percent, up 0.7 of a percentage point from the year before. However, for African American students, the rate is 68.1 percent, unchanged from the year before.

Samohi’s Hispanic/Latino graduation rate was 96.8 percent (252 total students) while it’s African American rate (53 students) was 94.3 percent. Malibu’s Hispanic/Latino rate (21 students) was 90.5 percent and Malibu had no African American students in the last school year.

Torlakson praised the state rates for rising while academic standards are becoming more rigorous.

“This is more evidence that the dramatic changes taking place in our schools are gradually helping to improve teaching and learning in every classroom,” he said. “We have raised academic standards, started online testing, given local districts more flexibility in spending, and provided more resources to students who need it most.”

Torlakson said he believes the extra resources flowing into schools have helped schools add staff and reinvigorate many programs intended to help students graduate. In addition, he said, the collection of more precise data has put a spotlight on graduation rates, helping teachers and administrators adjust instruction for all students, but particularly for those most in danger of failing or dropping out.

Despite the record graduation rates, Torlakson said there is still much work to be done. “I challenge educators, parents, students, and community leaders to continue the hard work needed to help every student graduate,” he said, “and to make a special effort to raise graduation rates for English learners and Latino and African American students.”

The cohort data track graduation rates, dropout rates, and students in a third category: those still working toward graduation who have not graduated or dropped out. Along with the rise in the graduation rate, the state’s dropout rate also rose slightly to 11.6 percent in 2014, up 0.2 of a percentage point. By comparison, the percentage of students still in school but who have not graduated declined 0.5 of a percentage point from the year before and stands at 6.9 percent.

The new graduation rate results come one day after the announcement that California finished sixth in the nation in the percentage of high school graduates from the class of 2014 who passed an Advanced Placement exam with a score of three or better.

Graduation and dropout rates for counties, districts, and schools across California were calculated based on four-year cohort information using the state’s California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). Cohort means the same groups of students were followed for four years in this data collection. This is the fifth time this cohort information was calculated, meaning data may only be compared accurately over the five-year period from 2009-10 to 2013-14. Prior to 2009-10, graduation and dropout rates used different calculation systems. Cohort graduation rates are used to determine whether schools met their targets for increasing the graduation rate for Adequate Yearly Progress reporting under the federal accountability system.

Visit http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest to access the state’s graduation database.

Matthew Hall contributed to this report.

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