San Luis Obispo County’s overall graduation rate continued to climb in 2014, matching a statewide trend showing that more students who started high school in 2010 finished with their class last year compared with 2013.
Several individual school districts in the county also improved their graduation rates last school year compared with the previous year, according to a report issued Tuesday by the California Department of Education.
In all, 89.4 percent of 2,900 students in San Luis Obispo County who started high school in 2010-11 graduated with their classmates last year. That’s up from 88.7 percent in the 2012-13 year and 87.7 percent in 2011-12.
In addition, the countywide dropout rate decreased to 6.4 percent from 6.9 percent the previous school year.
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Both outcomes are due to efforts by districts to improve attendance; to increase their focus on the needs of foster youth, homeless students and English language learners; and to offer alternatives to suspensions, said DJ Pittenger, assistant superintendent of Student Programs & Services for the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education.
Attendance rates are increasing, and the number of expelled students has dropped dramatically over the past decade.
“Our schools are really working to meet the needs of our individual students and families,” Pittenger said. “When students are engaged in school, they’re not engaging in other behaviors. All those numbers are showing us that those things that we’re doing are working.”
Statewide, 80.8 percent of students graduated with their class in 2014, up from 80.4 the previous year. The California graduation rate has increased substantially since the class of 2010 posted a 74.7 percent rate, according to a news release from state education officials.
The county’s largest district, Lucia Mar Unified, had the same graduation rate as last year: 90.8 percent.
Only one district — Shandon — had a 100 percent graduation rate, up from 88 percent in 2013. The small district had 12 seniors last year and 25 the previous year, so a few students failing to graduate have a large impact on the overall rate.
District Superintendent/Principal Teresa Taylor credited last year’s perfect graduation rate to Shandon High School’s intervention and make-up programs as well as the staff’s strong relationship with students.
“Their high school teachers usually have them as students for four years and our counselor works very closely with kids and makes sure that we have interventions if they’re having trouble,” Taylor said. “So they can’t hide here.”
Despite the statewide record graduation rates, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said much work remains to be done.
“I challenge educators, parents, students, and community leaders to continue the hard work needed to help every student graduate, and to make a special effort to raise graduation rates for English learners and Latino and African-American students,” he said in a news release.
In San Luis Obispo County, the graduation rate for a few groups of minority students lagged behind the overall rate last year.
The graduation rate for Hispanic students was 83.7 percent, up from 82.1 percent in 2013 and 80.2 percent in 2012. The graduation rate in 2014 for African-American students was 76.1 percent compared to 71.2 in 2013 and 88.7 in 2012.
By comparison, 92.8 percent of white students, 98.1 percent of Asian students, 95.5 percent of American Indian or Alaska Native students, and 100 percent of Filipino students graduated with their class last year.