State, local school dropout rates alarming

VAN NUYS In the past, dropout rates have been based on estimates and formulas. Wednesday, the state released figures based on tracking each student. Statewide, the dropout rate is 24.2 percent.

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In Los Angeles Unified School District, the rate is, as expected, higher: The LAUSD dropout rate is 33.6 percent.

State Schools Superintendent Jack O'Connell issued the first dropout report using individual student ID numbers to determine the rate.

"The dropout rate of over 24 percent is too high," said O'Connell. "It's unacceptable, and absolutely must be addressed. The 24.2 percent dropout rate in the state of California represents a huge loss of potential to our state, to our economy, to our country."

Superintendent O'Connell said the ethnic breakdown shows a 40 percent dropout rate for African-American students, and 30 percent for Latino students. He called that a crisis.

And for LAUSD, the dropout rate is not the 50 percent as shown in recent studies, but it is still higher than the state average.

"L.A. Unified School District's dropout rate was 33.6 percent, 9 through 12, and as I have said many times: one dropout is one dropout too many," said Brewer. "We are clearly not happy with that number, but clearly it gives us a basis from which to work."

Meanwhile, in Sacramento Wednesday, the governor unveiled a new state Web site, comparing all California public schools, including their dropout rates.

"What we want do to do is open it up and make it competitive, one school with the other," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "So that when one school, for instance, has an enormous dropout rate, we will see it."

The California School Finder asks for an area; a school level, like high school; then schools within a selected radius. Once the schools are checked off, they can be compared side by side in many areas, like test scores and dropout rates.

Click here to use the California School Finder.

The big question about the dropout figures is why? Why are these dropout figures they way they are? And the big reason so far: transition. Students start failing from middle school to high school, and students fail who transfer among several high schools.

Late Wednesday afternoon, a response from Mayor Villaraigosa: "Whether it's one in two or one in three students, our schools' drop-out rate is simply unacceptable. This is why we are pushing for fundamental reform of the district that gives teachers and parents real voice and power in the classroom."


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