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State Data Shows Graduation Rate Improving for Latino, African Americans Students

 H. Michael Miley / Flickr

H. Michael Miley / Flickr

In 2010, California changed how it calculates high school graduation rates. The California Department of Education now tracks an entire freshman class, statewide, and then measures them again as seniors.

The graduation rate has risen every year since then. 

The latest data released by State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson shows the graduation rate reaching a record high of 83 percent.

In 2016, the graduation rate for African American students reached a record high of 72.6 percent. For Latino students the graduation rate rose to 80 percent, up slightly from the previous year.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson partly credits the improvement to changes in how schools handle suspensions and chronic absenteeism. 

Before, says Torlakson, when students were expelled or suspended, there wasn't much follow-through or counseling. 

"(Students) were adrift in our streets and often getting into trouble," he says. "For some, being kicked out of school was a 'reward' because they didn't like being in school."

Now, he says, more California schools are trying restorative justice and in-school counseling to reach students before they drop out.

The number of English language learners who graduated rose to 72 percent in 2016, up nearly 3 percent from the previous year. In 2015, English language learners made up 22 percent of California public school students. 

While the increase in the state's high school graduation is a positive sign, it's not the whole story. 

UC Berkeley Education Professor Bruce Fuller says, for context, other measures of academic achievement must be considered alongside the graduation rate. For example, Fuller cites a 2015 report showing steady or declining SAT scores by California seniors. 

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