Fiscal, Demographic, and Performance Data on California’s K-12 Schools

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Data on Graduates and Dropouts

Where to find graduation/dropout data, how to use the new ethnicity filters in comparisons, and more!


Ed-Data displays 4-year cohort graduation and dropout data as well as the number and percent of graduates who have completed the courses required for admission to UC/CSU. These data are available at the school, district, county, and state levels. You can drill into the graphs to view data by race/ethnicity, gender, or for English learners and socioeconomically disadvantaged students. Click here to view state-level graduation and dropout data.

Where to find the data

The data are available in the Performance section of the Student Profile:

graphs of graduates and dropouts data

You can use the drop-down menu immediately above the graphs to drill in for more detail, such as gender and race/ethnicity.

Using the data in comparisons

These data are also available in the school and district comparisons on Ed-Data. For the cohort graduation and dropout data, you can now also filter the data by race/ethnicity in comparisons. Here's how:

1. Go to school or district comparisons.

2. Click the three dots (...) in the Student Performance section in the left column to view available performance data elements. Click on an element to add it to your comparison.

Image of comparisons screen with performance data elements menu expanded

3. Once you have added graduates and/or dropouts by ethnicity, you can use the filters to select the ethnic subgroups displayed and even set minimum and maximum values for each subgroup:

 Cohort data filters

 4. Click "Save"


5. Once you have added the desired subgroups and saved, you can sort the data in your comparison:

Sort option in comparisons

To learn more, please see How to Create District or School Comparisons. If you have questions about the comparisons, please contact us.

More about graduates and dropouts data

Elimination of High School Exit Exam requirement

From 2006-2014, almost all California high school students were required to pass the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) to graduate from high school. However, lawmakers eliminated that requirement in 2016 and ordered districts to retroactively grant diplomas to students who met all other graduation requirements but did not pass the exam. This change may affect graduation and dropout rates from 2015-16 onward, however data already published will not be changed to reflect diplomas granted retroactively.

How cohort data are collected and calculated

For years, California relied on aggregate reports from school districts because it had no student-level data system in place to track where students were enrolled throughout their K-12 public school education. This resulted in many students falling through the cracks of the system and not being accurately counted. This particularly affected schools with highly mobile student populations.

Prior to 2009-10, the graduation rate was calculated by dividing the number of high school graduates by the number of graduates plus dropouts (based on data from schools) from the previous four years. This calculation was called the NCES Completer Rate. Similarly, one-year and four-year dropout rates were calculated based on the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) dropout criteria. The one-year dropout rate was the number of grade 9-12 dropouts divided by grade 9-12 enrollments. The four-year dropout rate was an estimate of the percent of students who would drop out in a four-year period based on data from a single year.

But with the implementation of California's Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS), which became operational in 2009, the state was able to provide a much more accurate count for the state as a whole and for most schools and districts.

With the 2009-10 school year, the CDE began reporting 4-year cohort graduate and dropout data. Because each student has a statewide student identifier (SSID), the state can track exactly where students are attending school throughout their K-12 public school education. The state can report on what happens to students who neither graduate nor drop out, providing a more thorough understanding of what happens to students when they leave a school.

These data look at the "cohort" or group of students that could potentially graduate during a 4-year time period (grade 9 through grade 12). This cohort is then "adjusted" by adding students who transfer in to the cohort and subtracting the students who transferred to another school that offers a high school diploma, emigrated to another county, or died during the years covered by the cohort rate. Students who drop out during the four year period remain in the adjusted cohort, as well as students who complete 12th grade and exit the educational system without graduating. Students who take longer than four years to graduate or remain enrolled after four years are also included as part of the cohort.

However students from the cohort who (1) pass the General Education Development (GED) test, (2) complete requirements necessary to obtain a special education certificate of completion, or (3) remain enrolled in the 9-12 instructional system without a high school diploma are not included in calculations for either the cohort graduation or cohort dropout rates. These groups of students receive separate completer rates (GED Completer Rate, Special Education Completer Rate, and Still Enrolled Completer Rate). Thus, the cohort graduation rate and the cohort dropout rate will not sum to 100% when one or more of these other completer rates exist within the cohort.

Please note:

  1. Because the 4-year cohort rates are now calculated differently, graduation and dropout rates before 2009-10 cannot be compared to rates from 2009-10 and subsequent years.

  2. The number of graduates meeting UC/CSU requirements is taken from 1-year graduation data and may not match the number of graduates reported in the 4-year cohort data.