California's high school graduation and dropout rates rose in the past academic year, according to a report released Tuesday, but some East Bay districts saw vast fluctuations in their data, which could indicate errors.
The Dublin school district, for example, showed a 99.9 percent dropout rate in 2008-09, up from 10.8 percent the previous year.
"We do not have a 99.9 percent dropout rate," said trustee Dan Cunningham.
He said district officials were looking into the error, which was a mathematical impossibility, since its graduation rate was 93.3 percent during the same time period, according to reports also released by the state Tuesday.
"We switched to new software this year," Cunningham said, "because the old software, we were required to change. But I don't know if that's it."
The Oakland district also saw a huge jump in its dropout rate: from 28.1 percent in 2007-08 to 40 percent in 2008-09.
State officials said discrepancies could be the result of a new data reporting system used this year, called the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, or CALPADS.
Districts were responsible for reporting student data using their own software, which may not have worked well with the state system, said Keric Ashley, director of state's Department of Education data management division. His remark was in response to questions during a conference call with reporters about wildly fluctuating San Diego and Stockton results.
"There may be local software issues," he said. "And we know there's a lack of resources to do this kind of reporting."
Most of the statewide results were reliable, said Jack O'Connell, California's superintendent of public instruction. He lamented the governor's recent veto of funding for CALPADS, which he said would hurt the accuracy of reporting based on individual students.
"Unless funding is restored," he said, "the millions of dollars already invested in CALPADS will have been wasted, and our state will be at ground zero in collecting student-level data, placing us last among the states in measuring student progress over time."
Statewide results showed graduation rates rose from 68.5 percent to 70.1 percent, while dropout rates increased from 18.9 percent to 21.7 percent. The numbers do not add up to 100 percent because some students -- such as those who take special education classes, move out of state or pass high school equivalency exams -- neither graduate nor drop out, O'Connell said.
"I am glad to see the graduation rate inch up, but remain deeply concerned that the dropout rate is also increasing slightly," O'Connell said.
Black and Latino students drop out at a higher rate than others, showing a continued achievement gap, he said. The dropout rates for black students was nearly 37 percent, and about 27 percent for Latino students.
However, graduation rates for both groups of students improved, with nearly a 5 percentage point increase for Latino students and a 1.4 percent increase for blacks.
In Contra Costa County, the Mt. Diablo school district saw minor improvement, with its dropout rate moving from 23 percent to 22.2 percent.
The Acalanes district had the lowest dropout rate -- 3.3 percent. The Pittsburg district had the highest rate of student dropouts at nearly 31 percent.
Not counting the apparent Dublin district error, in Alameda County, the Piedmont district had the lowest dropout rate of just under 1 percent in the county, while Oakland had the highest dropout rate, with 40 percent.
Staff writer Katy Murphy contributed to this report.
2008-09 four-year estimated dropout rates for select East Bay school districts
County/school district % who drop out
Contra Costa County 15.9
Acalanes Union High 3.3
Mt. Diablo 22.2
San Ramon Valley 3.7
West Contra Costa 22.2
Alameda County 26.7 *
Alameda Unified: 16.6
Dublin 99.9 **
Livermore Valley 14.0
San Leandro 19.2
*Skewed by Dublin figure
**Dublin says there is an error
Source: California state Department of Education
To view or download state, county, district, and school-level dropout data, go to: http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest.
For more information about Contra Costa district results, visit the On Assignment blog at IBABuzz.com/onassignment.
The Education Report blog has Alameda district details at IBABuzz.com/education.