While state graduation rates continue to increase, Kings County districts showed a very slight decrease in high school graduation rates for the first time in five years, according to the California Department of Education.
In Kings County, 82.3 percent of students graduated in 2016, down from 83 percent in 2015. The number is close, but not as high as the state’s 83.2 percent graduation rate. However, the county dropout rate improved from 13.2 percent in 2015 to 11 percent in 2016, though the rate is still higher than the state’s 9.8 percent dropout rate.
The Hanford Joint Union High School District had the highest graduation rate in the county at 94.1 percent, a 0.7 percent increase from 2015. The district also had the lowest dropout rate at 3.7 percent, down from 4.1 percent in 2015.
Bobby Peters, director of educational services for the district, said the district has been working extremely hard for the past five years at identifying students who are in jeopardy of not graduating and trying to meet their needs.
Peters said the district has begun to identify essential standards and skills that every student must master. He also said the district is providing intervention to support student needs, which will not only address the graduation requirement, but also develop a stronger and more well-equipped graduate.
“Until we meet 100 percent of our students meeting graduation requirements, we still have work to do.” Peters said.
Hanford High School’s graduation rate was down slightly in 2016 at 95.6 percent, compared to 96.2 percent in 2015. Hanford West High School’s graduation rate was 98.1 percent and Sierra Pacific High School’s rate was 98.6 percent.
The Lemoore Union High School District had the second-highest graduation rate in the county at 90.3 percent, slightly higher than its 89.4 percent in 2015. The dropout rate decreased from 9.2 percent in 2015 to 7.7 percent in 2016.
Lemoore High School’s graduation rate was 92.7 percent, slightly lower than its 93.4 percent in 2015; as was Lemoore Middle College High School’s rate of 97 percent, down from 98.3 percent in 2015.
Rich Merlo, superintendent of Corcoran Joint Unified School District, said there was incorrect and incomplete data for the 2015 school year, which is why the Department of Education website shows the district’s graduation rate went from 65.6 percent in 2015 to 87.9 percent in 2016.
Merlo said the district’s actual graduation rate in 2015 was somewhere between 82 and 84 percent, and Corcoran High School’s graduation rate was around 89 percent. The high school improved its rate to 93.6 percent in 2016.
Merlo said graduation rates are tricky because it’s sometimes hard to track students when they leave the district and go to another school. Despite the mix up in 2015, Merlo said he’s glad to see the numbers where they are at now.
The district’s suspension and expulsion rates are down and they are trying to engage and support students more by giving them incentives for going to school, Merlo said. He also said they are trying to help students transition from eighth grade to high school so that they do not fail early on.
“We’re going in the right direction,” Merlo said of the graduation rates. “I’m proud of our staff and our students for all the hard work they’re doing.”
While the Reef-Sunset Unified School District saw the biggest improvement in the county by going from 79.7 percent in 2014 to 88.1 percent in 2015, its graduation rate slightly decreased to 86.3 percent in 2016. Avenal High School’s graduation rate was 89.4 percent.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said California’s graduation rate improved for the seventh year in a row and is now at a record high for the class of 2016. The California Department of Education reports 83.2 percent of high school seniors graduated with their class in 2016, up 0.9 percent from the year before, meaning 4,917 more students received their high school diploma in 2016 than in 2015.
“This is great news for our students and families,” Torlakson said in a statement. “The increasing rates show that the positive changes in California schools are taking us in the right direction.”