More than 93 percent of the 13,000 students from the Whittier Union High School District’s five comprehensive high schools are graduating and 0.7 percent or fewer are dropping out, according to data released Wednesday by the California Department of Education (CDE) for the 2010-11 academic year.
The CDE’s data provides another compelling validation of Whittier Union’s “Whatever It Takes” initiative that has propelled increases in student achievement in a high school district with 13,450 students who are 83% Latino and 80% socioeconomically disadvantaged, district officials said.
“We are proving that demographics do not determine destiny,” said Sandra Thorstenson, Superintendent of the Whittier Union High School District. “We are proving that all students can achieve at high levels, complete high school and continue on to college and careers when provided with dedicated educators who implement rigorous academic programs and targeted student support.”
Graduation rates for Whittier Union’s five comprehensive high schools ranged between 93.8 percent and 96 percent, according to CDE data. Whittier Union’s district-wide graduation rate for 2010-11 was 85.6 percent, a rate which includes 800 students from the district’s alternative education division that serves pupils who face greater challenges than pupils in its comprehensive high schools, district officials said. The rate also does not take into account those students who need more time and support to graduate and counts the majority of alternative students who graduate in five years as dropouts, district officials said.
Compared to state and county rates, Whittier Union High School District students are graduating at a much higher rate. The average graduation rate for the state in 2011 was 76.3 percent and the rate for Los Angeles County was 71.6 percent, according to the CDE.
Graduation and dropout rates for counties, districts, and schools across California were calculated based on four-year cohort information using the state's California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS), according to the CDE. This is the second time this four-year cohort data was collected, making this the first time that it can be compared year to year. It should be noted that the graduation rate is reported through CALPADS, an electronic submission of individual student data that is then compiled by the state.
The district’s five comprehensive high schools have a dropout rate that ranges from 0.7 percent to as low as 0.3 percent. Whittier Union’s district-wide dropout rate went down from 2.3 percent in 2010 to only 1.5 percent in 2011, which is well below the state dropout rate of 4.3 percent and county rate of 5.2 percent
“Our low dropout rate verifies what we are seeing in our schools,” Thorstenson said. “Our students stay in school when they are challenged and engaged and given the targeted support they need to succeed in academics and remain on track to graduate.
“Our focused efforts will continue as we persevere to ensure that all of our students graduate,” she said.