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LA Unified graduation rates rise for a fourth straight year

Vanessa Romo | April 28, 2015

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graduation ratesLA Unified graduation rates are up for the fourth straight year according to new data released today by the California Department of Education, but they still fall far short of statewide rates.

The percentage of local students in the Class of 2014, who earned a diploma in four years reached 70.4 percent, up two percent over the 2012-13 cohort. By contrast, nearly 81 percent of students across the state made it across the graduation finish line. And overall district numbers also lag behind state figures in nearly every other respect, including the dropout rate and graduation rates for Latino students.

But, Daryl Strickland, a spokesperson for the district, says the numbers improve and outpace state gains when they are broken down by school type. For instance, excluding option schools, continuation schools and other specialized campuses, the graduation rate for students attending traditional four-year high schools is 82 percent, a full percentage point higher than the state rate.

“I congratulate our students for this improvement, as well as our administrators, parents, and teachers who encouraged and supported them,” Superintendent Ramon Cortines said in a statement. “I also want to commend the work of support services staff, including counselors as well as health and human services personnel.”

Other significant gains made by the district over last year include a two percent rise in graduation rates among African-American and Latino students, a four percent increase in the rate for English learners and a 10 percent improvement for students with disabilities.

“These increases remind us of the good things happening in our schools every day,”  Cortines said.

Overall, 17 percent of LA Unified students who began high school in 2010-11 dropped out. Another 12 percent, 4,500 students, are on track to finish high school within five years.

Although Latino students make up about 75 percent of LA Unified total enrollment, only 70 percent graduated on time.

Filipino and Asian students have the highest graduation rates, 88 percent and 87 percent of students earning diplomas, respectively. White students, who account for 7 percent of the cohort group, are not far behind with a 75 percent graduation rate.

The second largest racial group in the cohort is African American students with nine percent. But only two-thirds graduated in four years, putting that group in sixth place among eight racial categories identified.

Bi-racial students, or those who identify as more than two race, are the most likely to drop out and least likely to graduate; About 44 percent drop out and 22 percent graduate.

Several board members applauded the results.

“Today confirms the hard work of our students, parents, community, educators, support staff and district leadership,” Mónica García, who was president of the school board when these students entered high school, said in a statement.

Bennett Kayser, who is running for a second term, said the data shows “that we are getting LAUSD back on track and moving forward.”

“I’m proud of the progress our district has made, despite the challenges that students, families and schools faced during the financial crisis,” said Tamar Galatzan, who is also running again, adding, “Now, with the additional resources we expect to get from the state, we must increase our efforts at every level so that our kids graduate with the knowledge and skills to succeed in the real world.”

The new graduation rate results come one day after the announcement that California finished sixth in the nation in the percentage of high school graduates from the class of 2014 who passed an Advanced Placement exam with a score of three or better.

It was the second-straight year the state ranked sixth.

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