Graduation rates continue to rise for Orange County, the state and nearly all student subgroups

For the seventh straight year, graduation rates are up for Orange County and the rest of California.

Among OC students who started high school in 2012-13, 90.8 percent graduated with their class after four years, according to figures released Tuesday by the state Department of Education. That’s up from 90 percent in 2015 and 88.6 percent in 2014, and it represents the highest rate for any county in the state with more than 75,000 students.

Graduates lined up“The dropout index is one of the fastest ways to determine a disconnect from education,” said Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares, “so when we see these numbers rise, showing higher graduation rates, it is a moment of exhilaration and exuberance because we are helping more students stay the course with respect to their education, which is fundamentally the most important thing they can do to equip themselves for life.”

Across the state, 83.2 percent graduated with their class in 2016, up 0.9 percent from 2015. California’s graduation rate has now increased 8.5 percentage points since the class of 2010 posted a 74.7 percent rate. That year also marked the introduction of a more sophisticated tracking system.

“This is great news for our students and families,” said Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction. “Graduation rates have gone up seven years in a row, reflecting renewed optimism and increased investments in our schools that have helped reduce class sizes; bring back classes in music, theater, art, dance, and science; and expand career technical education programs that engage our students with hands-on, minds-on learning.”

The increased rate in California means nearly 5,000 more students received their high school diplomas this year. Moreover, the graduation rate for just about every student subgroup rose in 2016, according to calculations by the state Department of Education.

English learners in California increased their rate by 2.7 percentage points, African Americans went up 1.8 percentage points, and Latino students increased by 1.5 percentage points.

In Orange County, the graduation rate for English learners was 82.1 percent, up from 79.1 percent in 2015. African American students produced a graduation rate of 85 percent, edging up slightly from 84.2 percent. And the grad rate for Latino students rose from 85.6 percent in 2015 to 87.3 percent this year.

“It really is life-changing,” Mijares said. “For me, these figures are worth celebrating, but this should also be an opportunity for us to examine our efforts to prepare students to take the next step, which is college and career readiness.”

Indeed, officials cautioned that more must be done, particularly to close achievement gaps that separate subgroups.

“We still have a long way to go and need help from everyone — teachers, parents, administrators and community members — to keep our momentum alive so we can keep improving,” Torlakson said.

To view state, county, district and school graduation and dropout rates, visit the California Department of Education’s DataQuest website.