Don Gosney


Nearly 85% of West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) students in the Class of 2015 have earned their high school diploma, according to data released today by the California Department of Education.

The 84.7% cohort graduation rate for the Class of 2015 is a 7% increase from the class of 2014 and a 12% increase from 2010. The District results also exceed the state’s graduation rate, which is 82.3%.

“These are exciting results that indicate that we are on the right path,” Board President Randy Enos said. “Our focus on preparing students for college and career and the supportive programs we’ve put into place are resulting in more students graduating on time. We have plenty of work to do, but the data clearly indicates that we are taking the right steps to improve the academic standing for all of our students.”

The Class of 2015 began in the 2011-2012 school year with 1,868 students. Of those, 1,583 graduated with a high school diploma and 42 received a special education certificate of completion. There are 108 students still enrolled and working on completing the requirements for a high school diploma. Some 134 students left without completing their education.

The Class of 2015 had a 7.2% dropout rate over its four years, down 7% from the Class of 2014. Statewide, 10.7% of the Class of 2015 dropped out before completing the requirements for a high school diploma.

“This is encouraging news any way you look at it, especially since the increase is occurring as we are introducing much more rigorous academic standards,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a statement. “Statewide, our students are benefiting from the additional revenues flowing into our schools. We are bringing back relevant and engaging classes in science, civics, arts, and Career Technical Education that were slashed during the Great Recession. I am also pleased to see the first signs of the narrowing of the pernicious and persistent achievement gap. But a lot of work remains, and our schools still need additional and stable resources.”

The increase in WCCUSD was spurred through significant gains by African American and Latino students. In the Class of 2015, 80.9% of African American students earned a high school diploma. In the Class of 2014, the rate was 74%. Latino students in the Class of 2015 have an 82.2% graduation rate, up from 73.3% in 2014. Statewide, 70.8% of African American and 78.5% of Latino students from the Class of 2015 have earned their diplomas.

Individual schools also saw significant improvement. Kennedy High School’s graduation rate is at 87.3%, up from 64.6 in 2014. De Anza High School saw its rate grow from 82.1% in 2014 to 87.9%.

At Kennedy, Principal Phil Johnson credits the turnaround to his staff embracing a modified block schedule, which gives students the opportunity to take eight classes a year. The eight classes give students more opportunities to earn credits, and by their senior year, they are free to take college courses at Contra Costa College.

“Under the old schedule, there was no room for error if a student failed a course,” Johnson said. “Our staff recognized that we were losing a lot of our students and something needed to be done. They did it for our students because they thought it would work, and it has.”

The new schedule is so effective that Johnson said he believes the graduation rate will jump again for the class of 2016.

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