May 22, 2009
SACRAMENTO Saying today that dropout rates won’t change until schools are transformed, Senator Gloria Romero, Chair of the Senate Committee on Education, pointed to the California Department of Education’s (CDE) annual release of dropout and graduation rates for the 2007-08 school year showing abysmal progress in increasing graduates and decreasing dropouts.
“We don’t need another report to tell us that we are failing miserably to educate the future citizens of California,” said Senator Romero (D-East Los Angeles). “We need to completely transform how we engage students to stay in school and to excel. We need better measures predicting dropout trends instead of gloomy statistics that just measure the body count. And we certainly need to increase our graduation rates far more than a measly .4 percent to meet the economic challenges of tomorrow,” she said.
CDE’s report shows overall improvement of less than one-half of one percent. Approximately 68.1 percent of public school students in California graduated, up from 67.7 percent in 2007. Similarly, the adjusted four-year derived dropout rate for the same time frame decreased only one percent, down from 21.1 percent to 20.1 percent.
“I have introduced a legislative package this year that provides methods to transform our schools,” said Romero. “For starters, if we are to have any hope of reinvigorating our educational system, we need to shut down schools that chronically fail, get rid of zip code education and allow parents to choose the best academic setting for their child, and give pay incentives to teachers who succeed in the classroom.”
Romero’s SB 651 would implement a key recommendation of the California Dropout Research Project, which calls for a more comprehensive, annual public account for school dropouts, not just statistics on the casualties as seen in today’s report. The report would be required to include “early warning indicators” of students at high risk of dropping out, such as attendance, ninth-grade promotion rates, course credit earning rates and other indicators. SB 651 is jointly authored by Senate President pro tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).
Also of note, the Superintendent’s press release was silent on continuing disparities in dropout rates within sub-groups of the 2007-08 data:
African Americans 34.7%
Latino 25.5 %
English Learners 23.7%
Special Education 25.3%
Socioeconomic Disadvantaged 25%
Migrant students 19.2%