Local schools ahead of state on graduation, dropout rates

The county's graduation rate continued to climb last year with Del Norte High School's rate increasing by more than 4 percent, according to data released by the state last week.

The county's overall graduation rate rose from 74.3 percent in 2011 to 80 percent in 2012, California Department of Education statistics show.

Del Norte's increase in graduation rates coincides with a dip in the dropout rate, from 14 percent in 2011 to 9 percent in 2012.

Although pleased with the results, School Superintendent Don Olson said he wasn't surprised.

"I think we're a district that makes decisions based on student data," Olson said. "We've been well aware of graduation rates that were lower and we focused on that."

At Del Norte High School, staff have implemented a new tutorial program with the goal of increasing its graduation rate, Olson said. The school's 2012 graduation rate was 94.9 percent, he said.

"Last year the graduation rate at Del Norte High was 90.7," he said. "We increased by over four percentage points between '10-'11 and '11-'12. We look forward to continuing to rise."

Del Norte's latest numbers were better than the statewide ones.

Nearly eight out of 10 California students, or 78.5 percent, who started high school in 2008-09 graduated with their class in 2012, a 1.4 percentage increase from year before.

The state dropout rate also fell. Of the students who started high school in 2008-09, 13.2 percent dropped out. That's down 1.5 percentage points from the 2011 rate.

Del Norte High Principal Coleen Parker said she and her staff have been working hard to get students to understand the importance of having a high school diploma. Many students this year receive roughly a half-hour of tutoring four days a week during school, as well as participating in online math tutoring after classes, she said.

Students whose grade-point average is below 2.0 have dropped by 33 percent for every grading period this year compared to last year, Parker said. This means more students will pass their classes this year, which will further increase the school's graduation rate, she said.

"Seventy-five percent of our kids go to our after-school program at least a couple days a week and they're getting help there," Parker said. I'm curious to see just how much of a jump we get (next year)."

Sunset High School has also made progress, Olson said. About 40 students are on track to graduate this year from Sunset this year, he said. Last year 37 students graduated from the school.

Graduation and dropout information for Klamath River Early College of the Redwoods was not available. To view and download state, county, district and school graduation and dropout rates, to dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com.