Berkeley high school students are graduating at a higher rate than the county and state average, according to new data released by the California Department of Education.
Of the 896 high school students due to graduate in 2009-10, a total of 727, or 81 percent, were successful in achieving their diplomas.
African American and Hispanic high school graduates also surpassed the county and state graduation rates, with 75.8 percent of African American students successfully completing high school compared to just 55.3 percent countywide. Berkeley's Hispanic students surpassed county and state rates as well as the district's overall graduation rate, with 81.5 percent finishing school.
The school board reviewed the data at Wednesday night's meeting.
“We are doing quite well," said Debbi D'Angelo, Director of Evaluation and Assessment, in her presentation to the board. "Our students are hanging in there, they’re graduating, and they’re graduating on time.”
D'Angelo's report also included a comparison between nine local school districts. The Berkeley Unified School District surpassed Emery, Hayward, New Haven, Oakland, San Leandro, San Lorenzo and West Contra Costa for its graduation rate, but fell behind Alameda City and San Francisco Unified. The graduation rate for African American students in Berkeley surpassed all of the nearby school districts listed in the report, except Emery, and the rate for Hispanic students surpassed all but Alameda City and Emery.
The data is based on a new formula for calculating graduation rates, which is based on four-year cohort information for students grades nine to twelve. The new rate "should not be compared to any previous rates," stated the report, "because it is based on a different method of calculation." The previous formula did not account for students who transferred in and out of district schools over the four years.
The graduation rate is calculated by dividing the number of students in the four-year adjusted cohort who graduate in four years or less by the number of students in 2009-10 graduating class.
The drop-out rate in Berkeley is also lower than the county and state number, with 16.6% of Berkeley students failing to complete high school compared to 19.1 percent in Alameda County and 18.2 percent statewide. Drop-out rates for African American and Hispanic students in Berkeley are also lower than the county and state by more than 10 percentage points. Of the similar schools listed in the report, Oakland has the highest drop-out rate for African American students at 38.6 percent compared to Berkeley's 20.7 percent. Oakland also had the highest drop-out rate for Hispanic students at 42.4 percent compared to 15.9 percent in Berkeley.
Board Member Beatriz Leyva-Cutler said the data was an excellent starting point for further improvement. “There are recipes of success there that we need to duplicate so that we increase our graduation rates,” said Leyva-Cutler.
Overall, the board was pleased with Berkeley's stellar graduation rate.
“It makes my heart sing,” concluded Board Member Karen Hemphill.