Del Norte stays ahead of California's average

Del Norte's graduation rate dipped slightly but continues to surpass the state average, according to data released by the California Department of Education last week.

Del Norte County Unified School District's graduation rate was down from 90.3 percent in 2012 to 88.6 percent in 2013, Department of Education statistics show. But that's still better than the statewide graduation rate, which showed that 80.2 percent of California's students graduated with their class in 2013.

The district's dropout rate is 3.7 percent, according to California Department of Education data.

"That's very high," Superintendent Don Olson said of the school district's recent graduation percentage. "But we won't be totally satisfied until we have 100 percent of our student body graduate from high school. We've been working in that direction."

Statewide, the number of high school graduates last year rose 1.3 percentage points from 2012, State Secretary of Schools Tom Torlakson announced last week. This coincides with a dip in the statewide dropout rate. According to the Department of Education, California's dropout rate was 11.6 percent last year, down 1.5 percentage points from the 2011andndash;12 school year.

With 94.7 percent of its students graduating in 2013, Del Norte High School's graduation rate also dipped slightly from last year's graduation rate of 95.7 percent. Olson also pointed out that graduation rates among the school's Hispanic, American Indian and Asian students was also high.

"Our Hispanic students actually outperformed the Asian students," he said. "Across the state of California, Asian (students) have higher graduation rates."

Del Norte High School principal Coleen Parker said the reason for the school's high graduation rate may be due to early intervention when a student doesn't have enough credits to graduate.

"We've been doing a better job tracking them and helping move them to other sites," she said, referring to alternative education sites. "Then they come back and clean up whatever credit issues there were and then graduate from Del Norte High. We're doing a better job helping them before they get so far behind that they can't get caught up."

Last year, when statistics showed that DNHS's graduation rate increased by five percentage points, Parker credited that accomplishment to the school's tutoring and after-school programs. Most students receive roughly a half-hour of tutoring a day, she said.

Attendance is something else that is monitored closely, Parker said. Poor attendance can also indicate that a student may not have the credits necessary to graduate, she said.

Olson said an extra advisory period at the high school allows students to go to a specific teacher for help in that particular subject

On the Del Norte County Office of Education side, the graduation rate is 76.5 percent for 2013. The Del Norte County Office of Education includes alternative programs like Bar-O Boys Ranch, Elk Creek School, McCarthy Charter School, Community Day School as well as Castle Rock Charter School.

Many students show up to those schools without enough credits to graduate or with law enforcement issues, Olson said.

"When I look at our numbers in the County Office of Education - 77.2 percent, which is close to the state average - that tells me the Del Norte County Office of Education is ahead of most other county offices of education in California," he said.

One of the changes the Del Norte County Office of Education is preparing to make is blending the McCarthy Center with Community Day School and creating the Del Norte Community School, Olson said. The new community school will be housed at the County Office of Education's new Instructional Media Center at 400 West Harding Ave., he said.

To view and download state, county, district and school graduation and dropout rates, visit

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