California graduation rate rises, two groups lag behind

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Eight out of 10 students graduated in the class of 2013. The state superintendent of public instruction wants to see 100 percent graduation rates. And schools are trying to accomplish that.

The 80 percent graduation rate is the highest in the state's history. However, school administrators are often prone to say there's always room for improvement. And the statistics make that clear.

Two groups -- Asians and whites -- graduate at percentages 8 to 12 percent higher than the state average. However, at 75 percent, Latino students are five percent below the average. African-American students, at 68 percent, are 12 percent lower.

Willow Glen High School in San Jose has a 94.6 percent graduation rate, up from 93.4 percent in 2011-12, and strives to keep that percentage rising.

"We've got 33,000 plus students in this district," said Traci Cook with the San Jose Unified School District. "It's a big job, and we acknowledge that there's a lot of work to be done, but our goal is to have every student succeed."

One way is to make sure teachers let counselors know when a student is struggling and getting poor grades.

"We get a D and F list from individual teachers where they notify the administration and the counseling team that these particular students are struggling in my classroom right now, and we act on that immediately," said College & Career Center Technician Kate Moody.

The dropout rate for California high schools is 12 percent. But African-American and Latino students are above that at 20 and 14 percent. The dropout rate for white and Asian students is in single digits.

Rosa de Leon is the lead organizer at Californians for Justice, a community group focused on bridging the achievement gap.

"If a student is constantly being expelled or kicked out of school, they're more likely to follow the school-to-prison pipeline, right?" she said. "Not graduate, not get a career, but end up on the wrong side of the road."

Schools are focusing on getting students the help they need.

"If we can address any obstacles, maybe I need a fee waiver for the SAT or maybe I need someone to talk to, making sure they have that person," said academic counselor Veronica Gonzalez.

Bay Area high school graduation rates

In the Bay Area, Marin County had the highest 2013 graduation rate, at 91.4 percent, according to state education data.

Alameda County's graduation rate was 80.4 percent, Contra Costa County's was 85.8 percent, Napa County's was 85.3 percent, San Mateo County's was 88.2 percent, Santa Clara County's was 82.9 percent, Solano County's was 81.4 percent and Sonoma County's was 82.2 percent.

San Francisco Unified School District's graduation rate was 81.6 percent, which the district said was similar to its rate for the previous two years.

(Bay City News contributed to this report)

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