High School Dropout Rate
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Learn More About High School Graduation

Measures of High School Graduation on Kidsdata.org
Kidsdata.org shows the California Dept. of Education's four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate, which measures the number and percentage of students who graduate from high school with their class, either with a high school diploma, GED, or special education certificate of completion. These data also are available by gender and by race/ethnicity. Also available is the California Dept. of Education's four-year adjusted cohort dropout rate, which reflects the number and percentage of public high school students who exit grades 9-12 without a high school diploma, GED, or special education certificate of completion and do not remain enrolled after the end of the fourth year. Data are provided by race/ethnicity as well. 
High School Graduation
Bullying and Harassment at School
College Eligibility
Demographics
Community Connectedness
Disconnected Youth
Math Proficiency
Pupil Support Service Personnel
Reading Proficiency
School Safety
School Connectedness
Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions
Teen Births
Why This Topic Is Important

Research has shown that dropping out of high school is associated with a range of adverse employment and life outcomes (1). Young people who do not complete high school are more likely to be unemployed, live in poverty, be dependent on welfare benefits, have poor physical and mental health, and engage in criminal activity than those with higher education levels (1). Though many individuals who do not receive a high school diploma go on to earn an equivalency degree, such as a GED, this credential also is associated with lower earning potential than a traditional diploma (2). The economic consequences of dropping out of high school do not stop with the individual. Society also faces costs in terms of greater spending on public assistance, higher crime rates, and lower tax revenues (2). One study estimated that if those who dropped out of high school in 2011 had graduated instead, the nation's economy would benefit by about $154 billion over their lifetimes (3).

For more information on high school dropouts see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Child Trends. (2012). High school dropout rates. Retrieved from:
http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=high-school-dropout-rates

2.  Ruse, C. E., & Kemple, J. J. (2009). America’s high schools: Introducing the Issue. The Future of Children, 19(1), 3-15. Retrieved from: http://futureofchildren.org/futureofchildren/publications/journals/journal_details/index.xml?journalid=30

3.  Alliance for Excellent Education. (2011). The high cost of high school dropouts: What the nation pays for inadequate high schools. Retrieved from: http://www.all4ed.org/files/HighCost.pdf

How Children Are Faring
Almost 80% of California students who started high school in 2008 graduated with their class in 2012, up from 75% in 2010. Rates vary substantially at the county level, however; in 2012, graduation rates were lower than 50% in two counties, but over 90% in others. Across counties and years, girls had higher graduation rates than boys.

2012 figures show that more than 65,000 California students who started high school in 2008 dropped out – about one of every eight students. Dropout rates vary widely not only at the county level but also at the school district level, and among racial/ethnic groups. Generally, African American/Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students have higher dropout rates than Asian American, white, and Filipino students.
Policy Implications
Students drop out of high school for a complex variety of reasons. Predictors of dropping out include a student’s record of school success, engagement in school, vision for their future, role modeling, poverty, teen child bearing and other external factors (1). Estimated graduation rates are particularly low for African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students in California (2).

According to research and subject experts, policies that could prevent and reduce high school dropout include:
  • Improving middle school policies and programs, including focusing on transitions from elementary school and to high school, and building student engagement and school achievement (1, 3)
  • Creating “early warning systems” to ensure students are on track for graduation their freshman year (1)
  • Working toward a more caring, supportive school climate, including making school safer, more engaging and more welcoming to students (1, 4, 5)
  • Ensuring funding and support for comprehensive data systems that can accurately document the extent of the problem and inform strategies for student success (1, 6, 7)
  • Funding and empowering school districts to provide proven, curriculum-based teen pregnancy prevention programs, offered during or after school, that encourage both delayed sexual activity and informed use of contraception among sexually-active teens (8, 9)
For more policy ideas and research on this topic, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section, or visit the California Dropout Research Project, the Institute of Education Sciences What Works Clearinghouse, Schott Foundation for Public Education, Jobs for the Future, or the Education Commission of the States. Also see Policy Implications under the following topics on kidsdata.org: Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions, College Eligibility, and Teen Births.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Dounay, J. (2007). Research sheds light on the students most at risk of dropping out—And how to keep students on the ‘Graduation Track.' The Progress of Education Reform 2007: Dropout Prevention, Education Commission of the States. Retrieved from: http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/75/33/7533.pdf

2.  As cited on kidsdata.org, High school dropouts, by Race/Ethnicity. California Department of Education, California Basic Educational Data System (CBEDS). Retrieved from: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/sd/sd/filescohort.asp

3.  Eccles, J. (2008). Can middle school reform increase high school graduation rates? University of Michigan for the California Dropout Research Project. Retrieved from: http://www.cdrp.ucsb.edu/pubs_reports.htm
 
4.  Bridges, M., et al. (2008). Giving a student voice to California’s dropout crisis. University of California, Berkeley for the California Dropout Research Project. Retrieved from: http://my-ecoach.com/online/resources/3865/Giving_Students_Voice_-_Drop_Out_Research.pdf

5.  Timar, T., et al. (2007). Does state policy help or hurt the dropout problem in California? University of California, Davis for the California Dropout Research Project. Retrieved from: http://www.cdrp.ucsb.edu/pubs_reports.htm

6.  Vernez, G. (2008). Improving California’s student data systems to address the dropout crisis. RAND Corporation for the California Dropout Research Project. Retrieved from: http://www.cdrp.ucsb.edu/pubs_reports.htm

7.  Hansen, J. S. (2006). Education data in California: Availability and transparency. RAND. Retrieved from: http://irepp.stanford.edu/documents/GDF/STUDIES/15-Hansen/15-Hansen%283-07%29.pdf

8.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Adolescent Health. (2012). Programs for replication (28 effective programs). Retrieved from: http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/oah-initiatives/tpp/programs-v1.html

9.  Suellentrop, K. (2011). What works 2011-2012: Curriculum-based programs that help prevent teen pregnancy. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Retrieved from: http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/resources/pdf/pubs/WhatWorks.pdf

Websites with Related Information
Key Reports
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For High School Graduation