Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health      

kidsdata advisory

The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health | August 26, 2015

Not All Kids Are Going Back to School

Of the California students who entered high school in 2010, 12 percent, or one in every eight students, dropped out before graduation, according to the most recent data available on

Twelve percent is high, but dropout rates among students from some racial/ethnic backgrounds are even higher. Rates among African American and American Indian students are nearly double the state average—at about 20 percent, or one in five students, according to 2014 data. Latino and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students, as well as English Learners, youth in foster care, and special education students, also have high rates of non-completion.

Research shows that students who drop out of high school are more likely to struggle with employment, live in poverty, have poor health, and engage in criminal activity than those with higher education levels. Society also faces associated costs in terms of increased spending on public assistance and lower tax revenues. In California, students dropping out of high school costs the state an estimated $46 billion annually.

Students don't finish high school for a variety of reasons. Risk factors include behavioral problems, suspension, and course failure. Underlying causes for these factors may be related to chronic health or mental health conditions, poverty, and other issues. Children at risk of poor educational outcomes can be identified early and supported to stay engaged in school. School-based health services can address student health issues and promote social and emotional skills.

Policymakers also can ensure effective implementation of California's Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Signed into law in 2013, LCFF moved decision-making power over K-12 spending from the state to the school districts. LCFF allocates additional funding to districts serving students with increased educational needs, such as low-income, English Learner and foster youth students.

Researchers also recommend avoiding a "zero tolerance" school discipline approach, and instead suggest implementing discipline policies that are non-punitive, transparent, fair, consistent, and aim to keep students in school when possible.

Related Data:

Helpful Links

California Dropout Research Project, UC Santa Barbara, Gervitz Graduate School of Education

Everyone Graduates Center, Johns Hopkins University's School of Education

Back to School: Exploring Promising Practices for Re-engaging Young People in Secondary Education, 2014, Center for Promise at America's Promise Alliance

Black Lives Matter: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males, 2015, Schott Foundation for Public Education

Don't Call Them Dropouts: Understanding the Experiences of Young People Who Leave High School Before Graduation, 2014, America's Promise Alliance and the Center for Promise at Tufts University

In School + On Track: Attorney General's 2014 Report on California's Elementary School Truancy & Absenteeism Crisis, 2014, California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General

Transitions from High School to College, 2013, The Future of Children, Venezia, A., & Jaeger, L.

Building a Grad Nation: Civic Marshall Plan State Indices and Annual Updates, 2015,, Johns Hopkins University's School of Education

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Students Not Completing High School
Year: 2014

Students Not Completing High School Mascots is a program of the Lucile Packard Foundation of Children's Health, which uses data to promote the health and well being of children.
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