Top of the Class

Top of the Class

Riverside County’s High School Graduation Rate Leads the State

S.E. Williams Contributor

Riverside County achieved the top high school graduation rate this year among the state’s ten largest counties.

The good news was revealed in the California Department of Education’s 2019 School Dashboard released Thursday, December 12, 2019. Riverside County’s graduation rate of 90.1 percent for the class of 2019 earned the county first place for the first time in history. It was also the first time Riverside County achieved a graduation rate above 90 percent.

The Dashboard is an important component of California’s five-year overhaul of the state’s school accountability system. It provides access to statewide information regarding how each school or district performed. It includes information for both the current and prior year regarding how they have either improved or declined year over year.  Information provided in The Dashboard is also broken down by student group including low-income, English learners, foster youth, etc. This information is used to help identify and address achievement gaps.

The Riverside County’s 2019 graduation rate is reflective of the effort and dramatic progress made this decade.  It is a marked improvement from the county’s 77.7 percent graduation rate achieved in 2010 and an increase from a graduation rate of 88.9 percent in 2018. 

Not only was Riverside first in graduation rates among the state’s largest counties, it was the only county to achieve a graduation rate above 90 percent. Also, 16 of the county’s 18 school districts with high schools delivered graduation rates above the state average of 84.5 percent. 

In 2019 the graduation rate was not the only area in which the county showed notable improvement.  The county’s dropout rate fell to an historic low of 4.6 percent. This measure represents the number of students who entered as freshman in county high schools in 2015 and failed to graduate with their peers in 2019. This impacted 1,548 students. 

Riverside’s improved dropout rate also earned the county a nod of recognition as its result in this regard reflected the lowest dropout rate among California’s ten largest counties and Riverside was the only one among them to drive its dropout rate below five percent. 

The county’s success in reducing its dropout rate this decade is admirable when compared to its 2010 dropout rate of 15.1 percent. Also, 15 of the 18 districts with high schools in Riverside County achieved dropout rates lower than the statewide average of nine percent. 

“Every parent, educator, and community leader in Riverside County who has stepped up to support our students and our schools should be proud of this accomplishment. Through collaborative leadership with all 23 school districts, identifying and expanding innovative programs and focusing on a shared commitment to building a sustainable system of support for all students. The future for our graduates, their families, and the region as a whole, is brighter than ever before,” said Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Judy D. White.

“Every parent, educator, and community leader in Riverside County who has stepped up to support our students and our schools should be proud of this accomplishment.”
– Dr. Judy White, Riverside County Superintendent of Schools

Riverside County also saw progress in other key areas including the Achievement Gap, beginning with African American students. This year, though still behind their peers in other racial groups, Black students achieved a graduation rate of 88.3 percent compared to statewide averages of 78.6 percent for Black students and 89.1 for White students. 

Students in other groups also graduated at higher rates as follows: Hispanic students – 89.1 percent  graduation rate compared to the state average of 82.1 percent; Socioeconomically disadvantaged students – 88.1 percent; Homeless students – 82 percent; English learners – 79.7 percent; Migrant education students – 79 percent; Students with disabilities – 74.6 percent; Foster youth students – 66.3 percent. Foster students experienced the largest gain among all student groups in Riverside County, improving 7.7 percentage points from 2018 to 2019.

Statewide Achievement Gaps are narrowing in several areas according to the California Department of Education. However, the Department acknowledged significant disparities remain. For example, African Americans showed the largest graduation rate gain among student groups with an increase of 6.2 percent for a total of 78.6 percent of students graduating. The graduation rate for foster youth increased by 4.2 percent for a total of 64.2 percent. By comparison, the graduation rate for White students increased 1.3 percent during that same time period for a total of 89.1 percent. 

Results this year overall showed California public schools making progress on four out of six statewide indicators: The statewide graduation rate increased 2.2 percentage points from 83.7 percent to 85.9 percent. The suspension rate fell slightly from 3.5 percent to 3.4 percent. The college/career readiness rate grew 1.8 percent and as a result, 44.1 percent of students are now considered ready for college when they graduate from high school. And, both math and English language arts (ELA) test scores are up—a 2.9 point increase in math and a 3.1 point increase in ELA. 

Because of steady progress, the number of school districts eligible for state assistance based on these indicators fell from 386 last year to 333. Thirty-two public charter schools are also eligible for the first time for state support. 

“California public schools are making steady—albeit slow—progress in important areas. We are headed in the right direction,” said State Board President Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond in a press statement announcing the release of this year’s results. “We also are seeing places making strong gains—schools and districts that we will want to study further. In other places where progress is stuck, we need to examine the nature of the support being provided to local educators.”

This year’s Dashboard results also revealed some concerning news. Darling-Hammond noted the disappointing 1.1 percent rise in chronic absenteeism. Students in grades K–8 are considered chronically absent if they miss 10 percent or more of expected days of attendance. “Possible issues that may have contributed to the increase include rising homelessness, work stoppages, and natural disasters/weather, which affect health, housing and transportation,” she noted. Adding, “County offices of education will be working with districts to determine specific local causes.”

In the meantime, as Riverside County celebrates its 2019 success it does not intend to rest on its laurels. According to White, “In line with our pledge at the Riverside County Office of Education, we will continue our focused work until every student graduates from high school academically and socially prepared for college, the workforce and civic responsibility.”

Under White’s stewardship the Riverside County Office of Education is responsible for 430,000 students, 23 school districts, 450 schools and nearly 18,000 classrooms. 

The 2019 Dashboard results are available online at It is available in five languages including English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog and Mandarin. There is also a Dashboard app available on the iOS App Store, the Google Play Store, and the Microsoft Store by searching for the term “CA Dashboard.”

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