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California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #17-27
April 11, 2017
Contact: Peter Tira
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Reports Record High School Graduation Rates and Seventh Consecutive Year Increase

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson reported today that California’s graduation rate increased for the seventh year in a row and is now at a record high for the class of 2016, with the biggest increases during that period taking place among English learners and African American and Latino students.

Among the cohort of students who started high school in 2012–13, 83.2 percent graduated with their class in 2016, up 0.9 percent from the year before. (See Table 1.) This increase means that 4,917 more students received their high school diploma last year than the year before.

The state’s graduation rate has increased 8.5 percentage points since the class of 2010 posted a 74.7 percent rate.   

The graduation rate of almost every student subgroup calculated by the California Department of Education (CDE) also rose in 2016. (See Table 2.) The rate of increase among English learners was 2.7 percentage points, African Americans went up 1.8 percentage points, and Latino students increased by 1.5 percentage points.

“This is great news for our students and families,” Torlakson said. “Graduation rates have gone up seven years in a row, reflecting renewed optimism and increased investments in our schools that have helped reduce class sizes; bring back classes in music, theater, art, dance, and science; and expand career technical education programs that engage our students with hands-on, minds-on learning.

“The increasing rates show that the positive changes in California schools are taking us in the right direction. These changes, which I call the California Way, include teaching more rigorous and relevant academic standards, which provides more local control over spending and more resources to those with the greatest needs.”

Torlakson cautioned, however, that much work remains. “We still have a long way to go and need help from everyone—teachers, parents, administrators, and community members—to keep our momentum alive so we can keep improving.”

A critical job, he said, is to keep working to narrow the achievement gap between Asian and white students and Latino and African American students.

The latest statistics show the gap has narrowed. For African American students, the graduation rate reached a record high of 72.6 percent, up 1.8 percentage points from the year before and up 12.1 percentage points from 2010. For Hispanic or Latino students, the graduation rate climbed to a record high of 80 percent, up 1.5 percentage points from the year before and up 11.9 percentage points from 2010.

English learners saw a second consecutive year of big increases with the graduation rate reaching 72.1 percent, up 2.7 percent from the previous year and up 15.7 percentage points from the class of 2010. (See Table 3.)

Along with the record rise in the graduation rate, fewer students dropped out of school. The dropout rate declined from 10.7 percent in 2015 to 9.8 percent in 2016, down 0.9 of a percentage point.

The state dropout rate does not have a precise correlation with the graduation rate because some students are still pursuing a high school degree or its equivalent after four years. These students have neither graduated nor dropped out. Last year, 6.1 percent of students in the cohort were in that category, a decline of 0.2 percent from the year before.

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 group of students entered ninth grade for the first time and were followed for four years.

This is the seventh time this cohort information was calculated, meaning data may only be compared accurately over the seven-year period from 2009–10 to 2015–16. Prior to 2009–10, graduation and dropout rates used different calculation systems.

To view and download state, county, district, and school graduation and dropout rates, visit the California Department of Education's DataQuest. Downloadable data sheets are available on the California Department of Education Cohort Outcome Data Web page. Caution is urged when comparing graduation or dropout rates across individual schools and districts. For example, some county office schools, alternative schools, or dropout recovery high schools serve only those students who are already at the greatest risk of dropping out, compared with the broader population at traditional high schools.

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Table 1: Difference Between Class of 2015 and Class of 2016 Cohort Graduation and Dropout Rates
Year Cohort Students Cohort Graduates Cohort Graduation Rate Cohort Dropouts Cohort Dropouts Rate Cohort Special Ed Completers Cohort Special Ed Completers Rate Cohort Still Enrolled Cohort Still Enrolled Rate
2014-15 488,612 401,957 82.3 52,249 10.7 3,192 0.7 30,775 6.3
2015-16 489,036 406,874 83.2 48,118 9.8 3,442 0.7 29,991 6.1
Difference 424 4,917 0.9 -4,131 -0.9 250 0.0 -784 -0.2

Table 2: Cohort Increase or Decrease from the Class of 2015 to Class of 2016 by Subgroup and Program
Ethnic/Racial Designation or Program Cohort Graduation Rate 2015-16 Cohort Graduation Rate 2014-15 Graduation Rate Difference Cohort Dropout Rate
Cohort Dropout Rate
Dropout Rate Difference
Hispanic or Latino of Any Race 80.0 78.5 1.5 11.6 12.6 -1.0
American Indian or Alaska Native, Not Hispanic 73.8 73.1 0.7 16.2 18.1 -1.9
Asian 93.4 92.6 0.8 3.5 4.5 -1.0
Pacific Islander, Not Hispanic 81.9 82.2 -0.3 10.7 11.5 -0.8
Filipino, Not Hispanic 93.6 93.0 0.6 3.1 3.5 -0.4
African American, Not Hispanic 72.6 70.8 1.8 17.1 18.8 -1.7
White, Not Hispanic 88.1 88.0 0.1 6.9 7.4 -0.5
Two or More Races, Not Hispanic 84.9 86.0 -1.1 8.0 8.5 -0.5
Not Reported 57.7 57.9 -0.2 35.5 37.5 -2.0
English Learners 72.1 69.4 2.7 15.8 17.6 -1.8
Foster Youth 50.8 49.7 1.1 30.7 29.8 0.9
Migrant Education 81.6 80.7 0.9 10.4 11.2 -0.8
Special Education 65.5 64.5 1.0 13.8 14.9 -1.1
Socioeconomically Disadvantaged 79.3 77.7 1.6 11.9 13.1 -1.2
All Students 83.2 82.3 0.9 9.8 10.7 -0.9

Table 3: Cohort Graduation Increase from the Class of 2010 to Class of 2016 by Subgroup and Program
Ethnic/Racial Designation or Program Cohort Graduation Rate 2015-16 Cohort Graduation Rate 2009-10 Graduation Rate Difference
English Learners 72.1 56.4 15.7
Hispanic or Latino of Any Race 80.0 68.1 11.9
African American, Not Hispanic 72.6 60.5 12.1

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Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Wednesday, April 22, 2020
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