Fewer students are dropping out of school in both Lodi and Galt, according to state rates released Wednesday.
The figures are in line with figures across California that show graduation rates among public school students statewide are climbing and dropout rates are falling, with the biggest gains being made among English-language learners and the state’s largest minority groups.
Dawn Vetica, Lodi Unified School District’s assistant superintendent of secondary education, said a focus on building relationships with students and making learning relevant to their lives leads to lower dropout rates. The district has also focused on developing professional learning communities at all high schools.
“This is a result of that effort. We will continue to make lowering our dropout rate and increasing our graduation rate a priority,” Vetica said in an email.
Graduation and dropout rates for counties, districts and schools across California were calculated based on four-year cohort information — referring to this particular group of students — using the state’s California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, commonly known as CALPADS.
This is the second time this four-year cohort information was collected, making this the first time that it can be compared year-to-year. With two years of data, the cohort rates will now be used to determine whether schools have met their targets for increasing the graduation rate for the Adequate Yearly Progress reporting under the federal school accountability system.
In Lodi Unified, 364 Class of 2011 students — or 16 percent — dropped out between their freshmen and senior years, compared to 463 the previous year. The rate does not include alternative high schools, as those are calculated differently.
Tokay High’s retention rate between the two years drastically improved from 66 cohort dropouts in 2010 to just 39 in 2011. Lodi High, too, saw a decrease from 60 dropouts to 43.
Trustee Michael Abdallah said keeping kids in high school through graduation takes a combination of motivation and accessibility.
“We’re trying to make everything accessible for students to take the courses they need and graduate,” he said. “We’re trying to give them confidence, that they can do it if they really try and give it a chance.”
Galt High School, too, showed improvement in its graduation rates in 2011 when only 33 students in the cohort dropped out, compared to 38 in 2010.
Liberty Ranch High School did not have any rates to report, as it graduated its first class this year.
Statewide, 76 percent of students who started high school in 2007 graduated with their class in 2011. That is up 1.5 percentage points from the 2010 graduation rate.
Larger gains were seen among Hispanic and African-American students at 2.2 and 2.3 percentage points respectively. The biggest increase was among English learners at 3.8 percentage points.
Locally, Lodi Unified retained more Hispanic students as well; 133 dropped out in 2011 compared to 158 in 2010. In Galt, 30 dropped out in 2011 and 39 in 2010.
Beyond the 76.3 percent graduation rate and the 14.4 percent dropout rate, the remaining 9.3 percent are students who are neither graduates nor dropouts, according to the state Department of Education.
Some are still enrolled in school (8.6 percent). Others are non-diploma special education students (0.4 percent), and some elected to pass a high school equivalency exam.
News-Sentinel staff writer Sara Jane Pohlman contributed to this report.