More Than 17,000 Eighth Graders Drop Out in California


For the first time, the California Department of Education has released figures for the dropout rate for eighth graders. About 3.5 percent of eighth graders — a total of 17,257 in all — do not return for ninth grade, says the Los Angeles Times. About 4,200 students dropped out during the academic year and more than 13,000 finished eighth grade, only to not show up for ninth grade.

Overall, 18.2 percent of California high school students drop out, according to the state’s data. 74.4 percent graduate in four years. The remaining 7.4 percent of students were still in school (6.6 percent), in non-diploma programs for students with disabilities (0.5 percent) or had left high school by taking the General Educational Development (GED) Test (0.4 percent). Different ethnic groups also show “steep gaps” in graduate rates in California, with graduation rate for Latinos 68 percent, 59 percent for African American students and 56 percent for students who are learning English. For white students, the graduation rate is 83.4 for whites; for Asian students, 89.4 percent.

It’s possible that these drop out rates could be even higher. The numbers the state’s Department of Education cites are based on verification by school clerks about whether a student has dropped out, moved or transferred to a private school. There could be more students who drop out after eighth grade, or somewhere along the way in high school, but never go through the formal process of reporting such to the school district.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson points out that dropping out is the “culmination of a problem that probably has been building for years.” If students fall behind in reading by the third grade, or are non-native speakers who “don’t make the transition from Spanish to English.” they also fall more and more behind in all subjects. Torlakson underscores the importance of the transition from middle to high school, saying that “those years are vulnerable years for many students, especially if a student loses hope, gets off track or falls behind.”

Middle school students are also all the more vulnerable because the middle school years coincide with children entering puberty and making the transition from childhood to teenagehood. Changes in their bodies, in their social interactions and much, much more all make middle school a highly challenging time at the end of which students have to move on to another school for high school. Making the transition to high school as successful as possible is a topic that educators are well aware of, with some states having programs specifically geared at easing and intervening in this transition.

My own son Charlie is 14 years old; he attends a county autism program and will be there for the duration of his education. Come the day after Labor Day, he’ll be in a secondary-level classroom rather than an intermediate one. His teachers have been working on a smooth transition by gradually introducing him all summer (Charlie attends summer school or Extended School Year) to his new teacher’s classroom. Still, the past few days have been rather rocky for Charlie. He seems excited to move onto a new classroom and a program with more emphasis on vocational skills but he is definitely still attached to his old teacher (who he had for almost two years) and classroom.

Charlie is certainly not in any danger of something like dropping out of school but seeing him struggle reminds us that, moving up to high school is a big deal and — especially for those vulnerable students who are still struggling with basic academic skills like reading at grade level — strategies need to be in place. The†Los Angeles Times notes that “there is pressure in some families to earn money rather than stay in school.” The point must be made again: Higher rates of education are closely correlated with higher lifetime earnings and an eight grade education just isn’t going to get one too far.

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Photo by Congressman George Miller


Lynda H.
Lynda Harrison6 years ago

Perhaps those who administer our school system should consider the possibility that not all students are academically gifted and are interested in going to university. There are, I am sure, many amongst those drop-outs who are gifted in more practical skills which would be of great benefit to this country at a time when the infrastructure is deteriorating. What about vocational education and skills training so that these youngsters could learn a trade and possibly earn a decent living rather than just casting them aside. They would be paying taxes and having a little pride in themselves. Would this not be a win, win situation for the country?

Ernest R.
Ernest R6 years ago

@ Dorothy D How are they gonna make a living without a PhD ? Or with it ? My daughter, who earned a letter of tenure as a high school teacher now has to conceal her degrees in order to have a job at which she can make a living. At least this study lets us keep up with the advantages of ‘diversity’. We learn that people who don’t speak English have a disadvantage in the USA. We could solve this problem by turning over Texas and New Mexico, [the states with the largest Spanish speaking population ] to Mexicans and that would help with the racist drop out rate. We also see that our young people see no point in school, as there are no jobs for them anyway, apart from the drug business..

Marty P.
Marty rajandran6 years ago

California is supposed to be the 8th largest economy in the World....this is not a good sign for the state or country. I think if this is a trend nationally, it means that there will be millions of young people without anything to do, nor the skills to compete for jobs (when there are some). This is just very shocking.

Linda E.
Linda E6 years ago

What a disturbing trend. The future is in danger.

Katie K.
Katie K6 years ago

I cannot even imagine the stresses and strains involved in school these days. I thought it was tough back then (in the 60's & 70's) but today has just got to be BRUTAL. If your not rich or beautiful, those that are, tend to make your life a living hell if you don't fit into their fashion show, rockstar lifestyles. I'm not suprised and I bet the rest of the States aren't fairly very well either. Our snobby little culture has created this monster. Everybody wants to be a rockstar and you don't have to go to school for that dream.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago

Where are the parents????

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

With a special effort to get educational entertainment, the content subjects, science and social studies, where the object is to impart facts and concepts, can be covered by canned entertainment with minimum wage aides to act as movie house matrons and maintain order so students can't damage either each other or their physical surroundings. With the 3Rs, where the object is to impart skills, students need to be persuaded to practice the skills. It takes a live teacher to get across enough to enable students to get the rest from desk top computers. Once students are able to use desk top computers, the rest of what they need to learn to master the 3Rs can be taught through computers. Computers can be programmed to recognized students through their password system, track their progress, and present them with an appropriate level of challenge better than a live classroom teacher trying to teach twenty plus individual students in one classroom can. I was lucky. I was a bright kid. I would have been bored if my teachers had forced me to pay attention to the lessons. Through sixth grade, they followed a policy of benign neglect and let me get away with reading what I wanted, as long as it was a hard-cover library book and not a comic book.

Colleen L.
Colleen L6 years ago

Very sad and foolish. I want to blame the parents for not explaining the importance of their child's education. Sooner or later they'll realize the importance of education is when it comes to finding a job, etc. My worry is that many will wait till it's too late. Thanks Kristina

Yvette S.
Past Member 6 years ago

I am overwhelmed with a sense of sadness. What has happened to California? My education was wonderful, and that should be a standard.

Claire M.
Claire M6 years ago

What needs to happen IMO is the typical school mandatory till age 16 policy needs to be lifted to 18. Too many kids are pressured into dropping out not only by friends but sometimes by their own families who need a free baby sitter and more income. You wont hear much about this kind of thing but trust me its true. If students were in school a few years longer they might see more clearly the need for an education.

A system to make home schooling work better or maybe have it a hybrid home with assistance schooling using technology more available. Schools are turning into something other than what they were supposed to be. School boards often prove to be loaded with theological specialist who push their own agenda as well as waste school funds. This puts honest teachers in a difficult situation when trying to help out the kids.