High School Dropouts
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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 and lower tax revenues (2). For example, in California, high school dropouts cost an estimated $46 billion annually (3). Dropout rates also are related to higher rates of violent crime. A report from the Office of the Attorney General of California asserted that a 10 percent increase in graduation rates would result in a 20 percent reduction in murder and assault rates (3).

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

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Child Trends. (2014). 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.  
Office of the Attorney General, California Department of Justice. (2013). In school and on track: Attorney General's 2013 report on California's elementary school truancy and absenteeism crisis. Retrieved from: http://oag.ca.gov/truancy/2013

How Children Are Faring
In California, 80% of students who started high school in 2009 graduated with their class in 2013, up from 75% in 2010. Rates vary substantially at the county level, however; in 2013, four counties had graduation rates over 90%, but three counties had graduation rates below 50%. Across counties and years, female students had higher graduation rates than their male counterparts.

2013 figures show that almost 57,000 California students who started high school in 2009 dropped out – about one of every nine 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 variety of reasons. The strongest indicators that students will drop out include: absenteeism,behavioral problems,  suspension, and course failure (1, 2). These indicators are attributed to a number of factors, including: poverty, mental health and chronic health diseases, teen pregnancy/child bearing and many other external factors (1, 3, 4, 5). With emerging brain development technology, children at risk of poor educational outcomes can be identified as early as nine-months-old, with critical interventions and evaluations needed in kindergarten, third grade, middle school and at the transition from ninth to tenth grade (3).

Although the dropout rate gap has been closing significantly in the past two decades, graduation rates are particularly low among African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students in California (1, 2, 3, 5).  Other populations at greater risk of dropping out of high school include: English learner students, foster youth, and special education students (7, 8, 9).

According to research and subject experts, policies that could prevent and reduce high school dropout include: 
  • Improving policies and programs focusing on transitional academic achievement and student engagement into and from elementary school, middle school and high school (1, 2, 3).
  • Ensuring states and districts set aggressive annual measurable objectives for increasing the number of students who graduate (2).
  • Redoubling efforts to target policy, evidence-based interventions, and additional resources to enable low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities, and limited English proficiency students to achieve graduation rates equal to more advantaged students (2).
  • Building strong school-family connections and adult mentor relationships to address more personalized interventions for students who begin “indicating” potential dropout behavior in middle grades 8-10 (1, 2, 10).
  • Increasing the use of school-based health centers and access to health care to provide disease management, early mental health diagnosis/management and interventions targeting adolescent risk behaviors including: smoking and other drug use and sexual encounters (9).
  • Ensuring funding and support for comprehensive data systems that can accurately document the extent of the problem and inform strategies for student success, including early warning data sharing, longitudinal tracking, and continued use of the adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) measurement (1, 2, 3).
  • 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 (11).
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.  Burrus, J., & Roberts, R. D. (2012). Dropping out of high school: Prevalence, risk factors, and remediation strategies. Educational Testing Service R&D Connections, 18. Retrieved from: http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/RD_Connections18.pdf

2.  Balfanz, R., et al. (2014). Building a grad nation: Progress and challenge in ending the high school dropout epidemic (annual update). Civic Enterprises, Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, America’ Promise Alliance. Retrieved from: http://www.civicenterprises.net/MediaLibrary/Docs/17548_BGN_Report_finalfull.pdf

3.  United Way Worldwide. (n.d.). Solving the high school graduation crisis: Identifying and using school feeder patterns in your community. Retrieved from: http://new.every1graduates.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Solving-High-School-Grad-Crisis-Report-Identifying-Feeder-Patterns.pdf

4.  Kena, G., et al. (2014). The condition of education 2014. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/

5.  Breslau, J. (2010). The connection between health and high school dropout. University of California, Santa Barbara for the California Dropout Research Project. Retrieved from: http://www.cdrp.ucsb.edu/pubs_reports.htm

6.  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

7.  Thurlow, M. L., & Johnson, D. R. (2011). The high school dropout dilemma and special education students. University of California, Santa Barbara for the California Dropout Research Project. Retrieved from: http://www.cdrp.ucsb.edu/pubs_reports.htm

8.  Callahan, R. M. (2013). The English learner dropout dilemma: Multiple risks and multiple resources. University of California, Santa Barbara for the California Dropout Research Project.  Retrieved from: http://www.cdrp.ucsb.edu/pubs_reports.htm

9.  Barrat, V. X., & Berliner, B. (2013). The invisible achievement gap: Education outcomes of students in foster care in California’s public schools. San Francisco: WestEd. Retrieved from: http://www.stuartfoundation.org/docs/default-document-library/the-invisible-achievement-gap-report.pdf?sfvrsn=2

10.  Jobs for the Future. (2014). In and beyond schools: Putting more youth on the path to success with integrated support. Retrieved from: http://www.jff.org/publications/and-beyond-schools-putting-more-youth-path-success-integrated-support

11.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Adolescent Health. (2013). Programs for replication (28 effective programs). Retrieved from: http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/oah-initiatives/teen_pregnancy/db/index.html
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For High School Graduation