Just as school commencement ceremony season has ended, local education officials are claiming far more students graduated last year than data available from the state would indicate.
The San Mateo County Office of Education claims 88.9 percent of students graduated in the 2015-16 school year, far above the 70 percent mark shared by the California Department of Education in a report earlier this year. The local graduation rate jumped by .8 percent from the year prior.
The state data inaccuracy was generated by a reporting error from the Sequoia Union High School District, said Superintendent James Lianides who claimed the district’s actual rate was almost double the 46 percent figure submitted.
The district’s actual graduation rate was 90.5 percent, said Lianides, marking a nearly 3 percent improvement from the year prior and floating above the 83.2 percent of students across California who graduated last year.
“Over the last several years the SUHSD has placed a strong focus on strengthening the services and support systems in place for our most at risk students at both our comprehensive high schools and at Redwood Continuation High School. This effort has led to an increase in the number of graduates from our district,” Lianides said in an email.
Lianides said the district has sent the correct information to the state, and expects the issued to be rectified over the summer.
County officials also celebrated the local graduation figures exceeding the state figures, alongside declining dropout numbers.
“Rising graduation rates and declining drop-out rates are key indicators of students’ preparation for college and career,” the county’s Deputy Superintendent Gary Waddell said in an email. “We know that these data are more than mere numbers, and that they have profound implications for the students that they represent.”
The county’s dropout rate dipped to 6.7 percent, down from 6.9 percent the year prior, which is roughly 3 percent less than the state’s figure last year. The state though did also enjoy declining dropout rates, down to 9.8 percent from 10.7 in 2015.
Considering the state’s improved success in keeping students enrolled through graduation, state Superintendent Tom Torlakson lauded the accomplishment in a prepared statement.
“This is great news for our students and families. Graduation rates have gone up seven years in a row, reflecting renewed optimism and increased investments in our schools,” said Torlakson, in reference to the state graduation rate increasing from 74 percent in 2010.
Torlakson also celebrated gains in state graduation rates among Latino, black, socioeconomically disadvantaged, special education and foster youth students as well as other specialized groups.
“The increasing rates show that the positive changes in California schools are taking us in the right direction,” he said.
Such detailed data will not be available for San Mateo County until the state updates its figures to accurately reflect the correct information.
Despite the improvement, Torlakson said more work needs to be done to assure the progress continues across California in coming years and pointed to closing the achievement gap between white and Asian students and many other ethnic or demographic groups as a top priority.
“We still have a long way to go and need help from everyone — teachers, parents, administrators, and community members — to keep our momentum alive so we can keep improving.”
Despite the success enjoyed locally, Waddell echoed a sentiment similar to Torlakson and encouraged educators and students across the county to keep their foot on the gas pedal while pushing toward further progress.
“While these numbers compare favorably to statewide averages, San Mateo County schools remain committed to continuous improvement to ensure that all students are well-prepared for college and career,” he said. “These data are important markers of our success in this work and inform local planning to continuously improve outcomes for children and youth.”
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