High School Graduation and Dropout Rates Show Mixed Results
Dropout Prevention Seeks Support from Parents, Schools and Communities

Student holding a graduation cap

California’s graduation rate increased for the seventh straight year, with more than 83 percent of high school seniors receiving diplomas last year. Certainly good news, yet a closer look at the numbers released in April by the California Department of Education (CDE) raised concerns in Sacramento.

The graduation rate in the Sacramento City Unified School District continues to lag behind and the dropout rate has worsened.

 In the Sac City district in 2016:

  • 80.5 percent of high school seniors earned diplomas
  • Nearly 11 percent dropped out, and the rate was 19 percent for African American students
  • More than 300 students in the Class of 2016 dropped out

Educator Olga Bautista has worked with students at the elementary, high school and college level for 30 years,10 years specifically focused on dropout prevention. “Students don’t feel like they fit in, they’re disenfranchised,” she says.

Bautista is one of several instructors in the Dropout Prevention Specialist online certificate program at the College of Continuing Education (CCE) at Sacramento State. Her fellow instructors are Tim Shironaka, a retired principal at a continuation high school, and Nicole Brown, a veteran high school counselor.

The educators explained their multi-pronged approach to dropout prevention.

Tim Shironaka: “The course I teach is developing a comprehensive dropout prevention plan. Participants prepare and present the current issues facing students within their specific districts. As a former principal of a continuation high school, I can apply my experience in affecting change in teacher strategies and in student matriculation to help students complete their sometimes wayward journeys.”

Olga Bautista: “My class covers building relationships with students, building resiliency in students, and providing services to both students and parents. Teaching parents how to access help is a big part of my class.”

Nicole Brown: “My course deals with dropout prevention at the community level and participants design policies and procedures for their own districts. We want to understand at-risk behaviors.”

Who is this program for?

Nicole Brown: “It’s open to newcomers who are new to the profession, who may not know the basics of dropout prevention or veterans who may need a refresher. So it’s geared for teachers, principals, administrators, counselors, classified staff, parents, volunteers and anyone who works with students.”

What topics are covered?

Tim Shironaka: “Participants are expected to understand the importance of acting as leaders in their individual settings and be able to affect change at their district or site level. We work with them on funding development, staff-parent-student empowerment and valuable networking skills.”

What does success look like to you?

Tim Shironaka: “I always felt that our students deserve to have the best, despite the popular notion of continuation schools as harbors of unwanted and undisciplined teenagers. It was quite the opposite. I spent 12 years of laughs and a few tears with the cherished memories of some of our city’s most capable and enduring students.”

Olga Bautista: “I have had some high school students drop out, but I’ve had some students find me years later with families of their own, telling me they went to night school to complete their credits because of something I said. It helps to know you do touch some students.”

The Dropout Prevention Specialist online certificate program consists of four online courses and provides 12 academic credit units. The next cycle begins in September 2017.

  • Introduction to Dropout Prevention (Sept. 11 – Oct. 27, 2017)
  • Supporting Dropout Prevention at the Classroom Level (Nov. 6 – Dec. 22, 2017)
  • Supporting Dropout Prevention at the School and Community Level (Jan. 29 – Mar. 16, 2018)
  • Comprehensive School Dropout Prevention Planning (Mar. 26 – May 11, 2018)

For more information and to apply, please visit the Dropout Prevention Specialist web page.

To access dropout and graduation rates, check out the California Department of Education database for districts and schools across the state.

Article by Sharon Ito