Students Not Completing High School
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Learn More About High School Graduation

Measures of High School Graduation on Kidsdata.org
Kidsdata.org shows the California Department of Education's four-year cohort graduation rate, which measures the number and percentage of students who graduate from high school with their class. These data also are available by gender and by race/ethnicity. In addition, kidsdata.org shows the California Department 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 life outcomes (1). Young people who do not complete high school are more likely to struggle with employment, 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 (3). For example, in California, dropping out of high school costs an estimated $46 billion annually (3). Dropout rates also are related to higher rates of violent crime. A report from the California Attorney General estimated that a 10% increase in graduation rates would result in a 20% 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 Databank. (2014). High school dropout rates. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=high-school-dropout-rates

2.  The Best Schools. (n.d.). High school diplomas versus the GED. Retrieved from: http://www.thebestschools.org/degrees/high-school-diplomas-versus-ged/

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, 81% of students who started high school in 2010 graduated with their class in 2014, up from 75% of the 2006-2010 cohort. However, rates vary substantially at the local level. For example, in 2014, eight counties had graduation rates over 90%, and four counties had rates below 50%. Across counties and years, female students have higher graduation rates than their male counterparts.

According to 2014 data, just over 57,000 California students who started high school in 2010 dropped out – about 1 in every 9 students. Dropout rates vary widely at the county and school district levels, as well as by racial/ethnic group. 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. Risk factors associated with dropping out include absenteeism, behavioral problems, suspension, and course failure (1, 2, 3). Underlying causes for these factors may be related to chronic health or mental health conditions, poverty, and other issues (1, 3). Children at risk of poor educational outcomes can be identified early and successfully supported to stay engaged in school (1, 3). In addition to identifying and addressing risk factors for dropping out, policymakers can promote evidence-based strategies to foster student, family, school, and community strengths associated with higher graduation rates (1, 2).

Although the gap in dropout rates among racial/ethnic groups has been closing in recent years, California dropout rates still are highest for African American/Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students (1, 4). Other populations at higher risk of dropping out include English Learners, youth in foster care, and special education students (1, 5).

According to research and subject experts, policies that could promote high school graduation include:
  • Continuing to encourage K-12 schools to engage students, families, and community partners in developing comprehensive, coordinated, evidence-based systems to support student needs and promote a positive school climate; such systems should involve school-based health services to identify and address student physical and mental health issues, strategies to address behavior problems (e.g., bullying), and efforts to promote social and emotional skills (1, 2, 6, 7)
  • Ensuring effective implementation of California’s Local Control Funding Formula and a continued focus on providing adequate resources to support low-income students, students of color, youth in foster care, students with disabilities, and English Learners to achieve graduation rates equal to other students (1, 5)
  • Improving policies and programs focused on early identification of students who are struggling, including young students in feeder schools, and providing tailored support for those students, especially at critical periods such as in middle school and the transition to 9th grade; examples of targeted support include improving parent-school communication and engagement, and connecting students to mentoring, tutoring, or other community-based programs (1, 3, 7)
  • Continuing to support and improve comprehensive data systems that accurately document dropout risk factors and inform strategies for student success, including early warning indicators, data sharing, longitudinal tracking, and continued use of the adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) measurement (1, 3)
  • Setting ambitious, annual measurable objectives for increasing the number of students who graduate (1)
  • Avoiding "zero tolerance" school discipline approaches, and promoting discipline policies that are non-punitive, transparent, fair, consistent, and aim to keep students in school when possible (1, 8)
For more policy ideas and research on this topic, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section, or visit GradNation, the Institute of Education Sciences What Works Clearinghouse, or the California Dropout Research Project. Also see Policy Implications under the following topics on kidsdata.org: Disconnected Youth, College Eligibility, and Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  DePaoli, J. L., et al. (2015). Building a grad nation: Progress and challenge in ending the high school dropout epidemic. Civic Enterprises & Everyone Graduates Center at the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University. Retrieved from: http://gradnation.org/report/2015-building-grad-nation-report

2.  Center for Promise. (2015). The building blocks of a GradNation: Assets for keeping young people in school. America’s Promise Alliance. Retrieved from: http://www.americaspromise.org/sites/default/files/FactorsPromoteGraduation_ResearchBrief_final_0.pdf

3.  United Way Worldwide. (2013). Solving the high school graduation crisis: Identifying and using school feeder patterns in your community. Retrieved from: http://gradnation.org/resource/solving-high-school-graduation-crisis

4.  As cited on kidsdata.org, High school dropouts, by race/ethnicity. (2015). California Department of Education, California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). Retrieved from: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/sd/sd/filescohort.asp

5.  Barrat, V., & Berliner, B. (2013). The invisible achievement gap: Education outcomes of students in foster care in California’s public schools. WestEd. Retrieved from: http://www.wested.org/resources/the-invisible-achievement-gap-education-outcomes-of-students-in-foster-care-in-californias-public-schools-part-1/

6.  Basch, C., et al. (2015). Health barriers to learning and the education opportunity gap. Education Commission of the States. Retrieved from: http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/01/20/69/12069.pdf

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

8.  Morgan, E., et al. (2014). The school discipline consensus report: Strategies from the field to keep students engaged in school and out of the juvenile justice system. Council of State Governments Justice Center. Retrieved from: http://csgjusticecenter.org/youth/school-discipline-consensus-report/
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For High School Graduation