MDUSD Graduation Rates Still Lag Contra Costa Average
By Kent Caldwell
The May 18, 2016 edition of the Bay Area Times contained an article about high school graduation rates in the Bay Area. The article reported the continued improvement in high school graduation rates State-wide. It also acknowledged the significant improvement in high school graduation rates recently for the West Contra Costa and Pittsburg Unified School Districts. This article prompted me to look into the high school graduation rates for MDUSD and Northgate High School. Below is a summary of those graduation rates by student program for the 2014-15 school year compared to the State/County averages and selected unified school districts and high schools as reported in the California Department of Education DataQuest website.
The following observations and questions can be gleaned from the above results:
- The 2014-15 high school graduation rates for the various student programs of MDUSD were close to the State average and consistently trailed the County average. This theme was consistent with the prior two years of high school graduation data.
- While MDUSD high school graduation rates essentially remained flat in 2014-15, the graduation rates for the West Contra Costa and Pittsburg Unified School Districts have improved so much that they are now on par or higher than the MDUSD graduation rates across almost all of the student programs. Why haven’t the MDUSD graduation rates shown more recent improvement?
- Although high school graduation rates for MDUSD special ed students continue to be below the County average, the MDUSD special ed costs remain much higher. For example, for the 2013-14 school year (the most recent year special ed costs are reported for each school district by the County), MDUSD spent $22,654 per special ed student versus the County average of $15,470 per special ed student – a 46% higher spend per student. Is MDUSD spending these significant funds effectively?
- Northgate High School graduation rates for all student programs remain below its “peer” group (e.g., high schools in the Acalanes Union High School District and the San Ramon Valley Unified School District). Surprisingly, Northgate’s rates also trail the graduation rates of College Park and Alhambra High Schools for the past three years. What are these local high schools doing to graduate their students at a higher rate?
Key Questions: Are Northgate High School students under-achieving because of its association with MDUSD? Could our students achieve more and better maximize their potential by being in its own community-based unified school district?