State releases graduation, dropout rates for 2019-2020 school year

Ben Irwin

County dropout rate slightly lower than state rate, university preparedness is still lacking

TULARE COUNTY – The California Department of Education released the graduation and drop out data for the 2019-2020 school year, accounting for almost 2 million students statewide in grades 9 to 12.

Tulare County had 6,406 students graduate during the school year despite the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring, about 35%—2,248—of whom completed the coursework necessary to meet University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) entrance requirements, falling short of the statewide 45% of 428,560 total high school grads who met UC or CSU entrance requirements.

Excluding charter schools, unified districts in Tulare County had a cohort graduation rate of 90.7%—the four-year cohort is based on the number of students who enter grade nine for the first time adjusted by adding into the cohort any student who transfers in during grade nine or during the next three years and subtracting any student who transfers out, emigrates to another country, transfers to a prison or juvenile facility, or dies during that same period—improving upon the statewide cohort graduation rate of 87.6%.

Students in Tulare County may be graduating at a slightly higher rate than the state as a whole, but significantly less of those graduates are prepared to continue their education at a California university. Census data from 2019 estimates 70.5% of Tulare County residents aged 25 or older have a high school education or higher, but only 14.6% have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Low testing scores accompany Tulare County student’s low preparedness for continued education. Data from California Department of Education’s Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) reflecting performance in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics during the 2018-2019 school year shows in Tulare County, just 20% of school districts had more students meet or exceed standards in ELA than the state average of just over half (50.87%) and 27% of school districts had more students meet or exceed standards in math than the state average of more than two-thirds (39.73%).

While county testing was trending up from years past according to 2018-2019 data, the state has yet to release the testing data from the 2019-2020 school year, leaving in question the effects the COVID-19 outbreak that forced students into a learn-from-home situation in the spring, a scenario school districts were wildly unprepared for. Many districts ended up sending students paper worksheets every few weeks for three months due to the inequities of students having access to the internet for distanced learning.

Tulare County’s dropout rate for the 2019-2020 school year was 2.0%, slightly better than the statewide 2.4%.

Stone Corral Elementary stood out with a 21.3% dropout rate—the single school district charters Crescent Valley Public Charter II for its students grades 9-12—the highest dropout rate by far in the county. Stone Corral’s 2018-2019 testing scores follow suit, showing the county’s lowest scores with less than 10% of students meeting standards, 9.52% in ELA and 2.38% in math.

Alpaugh Unified had a dropout rate of 5.6%, the only other district in the county below the statewide dropout percentage of 2.4%. It is noteworthy that California Connections Academy, an online network of K-12 public schools, is chartered by Alpaugh Unified School District, but is not limited to students within Alpaugh Unified.

The majority of every district’s dropouts in Tulare County, about 75%, were Hispanic or Latino, who account for 77.8% of K-12 enrollment in the county, while 18.3% of dropouts were white, and made up only 15.2% of enrollment.

Several districts dropout rates were less than the state average, notably Farmersville Unified (1.5%), Tulare Joint Union High (1.5%), Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified (1.3%), Visalia Unified (1.2%), Woodlake Unified (1.2%), Lindsay Unified (1.0%) and Dinuba Unified (0.3%).

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