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School dropout rate doubles in Nevada County

Kyle Magin
Staff Writer
and The Associated Press

California public high school students graduated at a higher rate in 2008-09 than in the previous year, but more students also dropped out, according to data released Tuesday by the state Department of Education.

Nevada County’s high schools also recorded a dropout rate in 2008-09 more than double that of the previous year.

In 2008-09, 113 Nevada Joint Union High School District students dropped out, compared to 49 in 2007-08, according to California Department of Education figures.

School district officials are reviewing those figures before commenting on them, said Assistant Superintendent Trisha Dellis.

California is using a new tracking system for dropouts this year, which may have skewed some numbers, said Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Holly Hermansen.

Nevada Union High School had nine dropouts in 2008-09, up from two the year before. Bear River dropped from four dropouts in 2007-08 to three in 08-09, according to the Department of Education figures.

Nevada County’s adult education program recorded 79 dropouts in 2008-09, representing the bulk of the district-wide figure.

Statewide, the data showed that 70.1 percent of public school students graduated from high school during the 2008-09 school year – an improvement from 68.5 percent graduating the previous year.

Still, the state dropout rate for the 2008-09 school year was 21.7 percent – up from the previous year’s 18.9 percent.

“Clearly the dropout rates are too high,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said in a call with reporters. “It’s unacceptable and absolutely must be addressed.”

O’Connell blamed the increased dropout rate on state budget cuts to K-12 schools that have led to larger class sizes, fewer teachers, counselors and nurses, and reductions in electives and extracurricular activities.

“There are fewer learning opportunities in our schools,” the state schools chief said.

About 8 percent of California students were in special education programs, moved away or received high school equivalency certificates. They were not counted as dropouts or graduates.

African-Americans had the highest dropout rate at 36.9 percent, followed by Hispanics at 26.9 percent. Both groups saw their dropout rates increase by 3 percent from the previous school year.

“There is an urgency to close the achievement gap,” he said. “It is no longer a moral or social imperative, but an economic imperative. The work force we need to be skilled and well educated will be coming from this group.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. To contact Kyle Magin, e-mail kmagin@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4239.

Visit http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/ to see the dropout rates for your child’s school.

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