December 15, 2022
Restarted California School Dashboard Shows High 2021–22 Graduation Rates, While Chronic Absenteeism Mirrored National Trends
Governor Newsom, State Superintendent Thurmond, and the Legislature have worked together to invest $23.8 billion in student supports and learning acceleration.
The 2022 California School Dashboard , restarted for the first time since 2019 and publicly available today, shows that California’s four- and five-year high school graduation rates hit all-time highs in 2021–22, while the state’s chronic absenteeism rate mirrored national trends. The Dashboard is a key component of the state’s school accountability system, which includes the latest data on graduation rates, suspension rates, test scores, English Learner progress, chronic absenteeism, and local indicators.
The four-year “cohort” graduation rate—which measures the number of students who started as ninth graders and graduated with their peers four years later—climbed to 87 percent, up from 83.6 percent in 2020–21. Every student group showed improvement. Acknowledging high school staff challenges in calculating and assigning grades in the earliest months of the pandemic, the state enacted Assembly Bill 104, altering some specific policies to encourage students in the Class of 2022 to push on toward earning a diploma. The graduation rates likely reflect those accommodations designed to give a boost to students most impacted by COVID-19.
Other data on display today shows a decline in the suspension rate compared to 2018–19 and an increase in the percentage of English Language Learners making progress toward language acquisition over pre-pandemic levels—another indicator of educator and student persistence in difficult times.
The Dashboard also includes information on English language arts and math test scores, which were previously released, and takes into account whether 95 percent of eligible students participated in assessments—a federal requirement.
The chronic absenteeism rate, which measures the number of students who missed 10 percent of the days they were enrolled for any reason, increased from 14.3 percent in 2020–21 to 30 percent in 2021–22, mirroring trends in other states for a year when schools continued to experience the effects of COVID-19 community surges on attendance. The chronic absenteeism rate was 32.3 percent in Florida , 30 percent in Ohio , and 38.5 percent in Michigan .
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond and the California Department of Education (CDE) are working with districts to find solutions to counter chronic absenteeism (PDF). The CDE has put out guidance to give resources and best practices to school districts on ways to counter chronic absenteeism and will launch a new attendance webinar series in January.
The absenteeism data available today reflects a year that started without a Centers for Disease Control (CDC)-approved COVID-19 vaccine for five- to eleven-year-olds (the CDC approved this vaccine in November 2021) and the then-new Omicron variant triggered surges in communities across California and the nation. The Omicron booster shot for children ages five to eleven was approved this October and the booster for children five and under was approved last week.
California uses the data reported on the California School Dashboard to help determine those districts and schools that are eligible for assistance. In these unprecedented times and this unique context, the number of school districts and county offices of education eligible for differentiated assistance based on the 2022 Dashboard is substantial. The CDE provided local educational agencies (LEAs) the 2022 Dashboard Summary (PDF) for essential background information and factors to consider when reviewing the data reports.
In response to higher absenteeism rates and other challenges, many local schools and districts launched attendance campaigns, practices, and policies. Last spring, Superintendent Thurmond honored six school attendance review boards (SARBs) for exemplary practices to reduce chronic absenteeism and improve student attendance.
These local efforts are aided by and come in addition to the $23.8 billion that Governor Newsom, State Superintendent Thurmond, and the Legislature worked to invest in programs to engage students in their learning, jumpstart learning recovery, and further accelerate learning. Investments include:
- The California $4.7 billion Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health : All young people ages zero to twenty-five will have ready access to mental health supports both inside and outside of school.
- Universal free meals: All students, regardless of income, have access to two free school meals per day—up to 12 million meals per day statewide.
- Expanded learning time: Elementary school students from low-income households, foster youth, and English Learners will have access to enrichment programs year-round and nine hours per day. At full scale in 2025, the $4 billion-per-year effort will serve an additional 1.5 million students per year.
- The Community Schools Partnership Program: Roughly one out of every three schools in California will receive $4.1 billion to focus more on student and parent engagement, expanded access to mental health supports, and wraparound services.
Because the pandemic interrupted the statewide data collection, assessment, and accountability systems, the 2022 Dashboard is a restart of California’s accountability system and only current year performance (Status) is being reported on the 2022 Dashboard. The colorful “gauges” of the Dashboard will return in 2023.
Superintendent Thurmond and the CDE continue to host the Learning Acceleration Webinar series. Events included the initial “Learning Acceleration” webinar on October 11 featuring LEAs and other education partners sharing tools and strategies to support student recovery and learning acceleration, the Learning Recovery Emergency Block Grant on November 10, and Learning Acceleration Webinar: Mathematics on December 14 . In addition, the new CDE attendance webinar series will begin on January 18—each webinar will explore how chronic absence can be woven into a key area of existing work and will include the voices of practitioners offering concrete examples of how they combat chronic absence in their own schools and communities.
More information about the California School Dashboard can be found on the CDE Dashboard Resources page.
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Tony Thurmond —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100