How Dropout Rates Hit the Radar Screen in California

Published February 1, 2001

In June 1998, the California Department of Education issued a press release claiming California’s dropout rate had fallen to 3.3 percent, a figure printed in more than 35 California daily newspapers.

Incensed by the release of such blatantly misleading data, my colleague Carlos Bonilla and I successfully lobbied the State Board of Education for a crackdown on dropout rate reporting.

As a result of our efforts, the California Department of Education was forced to report in June 1999 that one-third of 1994 freshmen hadn’t graduated high school four years later–a figure ten times higher than the number they had claimed a year earlier. That admission was front-page news in almost every major daily newspaper in California, and Fox TV did a special television report on California dropouts that was seen throughout Southern California.

For June 2000, certified management accountant Carl Brodt prepared an in-depth study of state dropouts, including details of graduation and attrition rates, for California Parents for Educational Choice (CPEC). While California voters now realize there is a statewide dropout crisis, many individual districts continue to claim dropout rates far lower than the state average.

To counter those claims, CPEC is preparing a report to explain how students become dropouts and how the current system fails to count them.

For more information . . .

To be placed on the waiting list for CPEC’s 2001 report, email [email protected].