S.B. Grad Rates Beat State Numbers
By Dianne Anderson
Better programming, mentoring and tutoring helped push San Bernardino City Unified School District Class of 2018 graduating students to new heights, now at 91.8% and beating out the statewide graduation rate by more than 8 percent.
Overall, school board member Danny Tillman said that he is pleased with the district’s increased graduation rate, and now the goal is to stay strongly focused on increasing the A-G completion rate so students can be prepared to meet the UC/CSU requirements.
Despite the many barriers low-income students face – 92 percent of the district student population qualifies for free or reduced lunch – he feels they are in a good position to move forward. “A lot of issues come with lower socioeconomic and poverty, but our district does a good job I think of meeting the students where they’re at and trying to help them be as successful as possible,” he said.
The district’s charter schools focus on several career pathways offering mentoring and tutoring programs to fill the gap, he said. Lately, there is more funding, which can also expand their reach.
“We get extra money now for students because they are lower socioeconomic, and with that money, we’ve been able to help a whole lot more kids,” Tillman said.
He said it is also important that parents understand their students must complete the A-G requirements to qualify for the UC and CSU system. Aside from the report card, the district sends out information to parents about their child’s status on meeting those requirements.
But he doesn’t take the recent graduation numbers for granted.
Students not ready to meet the UC/CSU requirements can still go on to community college and then transfer to a four-year school. Or, they can go into the military with a GI bill that pays for college.
There is more work to do, but he counts the rate as a win for the district, and for the students.
“Graduating gives them a world of options they wouldn’t have had if they don’t graduate from high school,” he said.
The graduation rate is based on the percentage of students who received a high school diploma within four years of entering ninth grade or complete their graduation requirements at an alternative school.
Districtwide, the cohort graduation rate – those that entered in ninth grade, but may have moved away, dropped out, or relocated to another district – were at 3,383. Of those, 3,000 students received their regular high school degrees.
Of the district’s 384 African American students that received regular high school diplomas, only 95 students met UC/CSU requirements. Of the 2,275 Hispanic or Latino that graduated with a regular diploma, 760 qualified for UC/CSU. And of the 178 graduating white students, 67 were prepared to go on to UC/CSU system.
Last year, the district reported 49,454 students enrolled, of those, 89.9 % were socioeconomically disadvantaged, 26.1% were English Learners, and .09 were foster youth.
The district met their standard in several key areas, including Basics: Teachers, Instructional Materials, Facilities. Implementation of Academic Standards, Parent Engagement, Local Climate Survey, and Access to a Broad Course of Study.
Among the graduates, the Class of 2018 rate for Asians students was highest at 94.6%. Hispanic or Latino was at 92% and whites at 91%. African Americans came in at the lowest at 89.9%. Other groups, although much smaller representation, includes American Indian at 81.8%, Filipino at 100%, two or more races at 95.5%, and Pacific Islanders at 76%.
Some schools saw increases in suspension, including Sierra High at 8% was up from 4.5% last year. Lincoln Elementary at 5.5, up from 2.5% last year. Newmark Elementary is at 4.9% suspensions, up from 1% last year. Golden Valley Middle, Arrowhead Middle, and Shandin Hills Middle are also at a very high status for suspensions.
SBCUSD spokesperson, Linda Bardere, said that schools are conducting several actions to address the gap in academic performance of African American students.
The district offers after-school tutoring programs based on specific content areas and student learning needs, and contracts with community partners to provide mentorship and tutoring. Upward Bound, Educational Test Service, GEAR Up, and AVID Programs and services provided by the local university also help increase college-going rates.
Programs and services are also provided by San Bernardino Valley College to support college awareness at high schools, and professional development training is facilitated by UCLA for teachers to improve instructional practices. She said there is also implementation of district and site level progress monitoring systems to identify student’s needs early.
Superintendent Dr. Dale Marsden said that more SBCUSD students are graduating thanks to partnerships with local colleges and organizations. Strong partnerships with Cal State San Bernardino, San Bernardino Valley College, and the county Workforce Development Department are also helping to foster a college-going culture.
“We have to push the idea that college is for everyone,” Marsden said by email. “We have the ability to have a college- and career-ready culture right here in the City of San Bernardino. It starts in every classroom and every school from the day students enter our system.”
At the state level, African American students graduated at 73.3% in 2018, up from 73.1% in 2017. Hispanics were at 80.6% graduation, up from 80.3% from 2017.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a recent statement that graduation rates continue to rise, but more work is needed to close achievement gaps and address other significant barriers to graduation, including chronic absenteeism.
Data on chronic absenteeism, representing students absent at least ten percent of the days enrolled in school, is a new state indicator included on the California School Dashboard. Statewide, African American students are also among the highest impacted with chronic absenteeism at 20.1% in 2018, up from 19% in 2017.
“There are many reasons a student can fall into a pattern of being chronically absent that are beyond their control such as an illness, watching a younger sibling while a parent works, caregiving for an older relative, or lack of a reliable ride, or convenient bus route to school,” said Torlakson. “When we identify these challenges, we can link students and their families to all appropriate school and community resources.”