Newly released 2017–18 California college-going rates in perspective

Last week, the California Department of Education released the 2017–18 college-going rates for high school graduates. This release continues to reveal an achievement gap between students of color and their white peers, but also offers an opportunity for school leaders to assess how well their high schools are doing at preparing students for college, career and life success.

A quick glance at the data reveals one important point: to improve college-going rates AND college success, the focus must be on high school graduation that meets University of California and California State University entrance requirements. In other words, the focus should not be solely on high school graduation, but on graduating with completed A-G coursework.

This is reflected by the fact that the likelihood of going to college increases for high school graduates that completed UC and CSU requirements. For example, while only 60 percent of all African American high school graduates attend college, 80 percent of African American graduates attend college when they complete UC and CSU entrance requirements. This trend continues for all student groups (see table below).

Table I: 2017-18 College-Going Rates

Race / Ethnicity All Graduates Graduates Meeting UC/CSU Requirements
Asian 84{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c} 89{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c}
Filipino 71{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c} 79{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c}
White 70{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c} 86{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c}
African American 60{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c} 80{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c}
Pacific Islander 59{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c} 77{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c}
Hispanic or Latino 58{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c} 77{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c}
American Indian or Alaska Native 50{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c} 76{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c}

Unfortunately, California high schools are not doing enough to ensure that all students graduate having met UC and CSU entrance requirements. When the focus is on only high school graduation rates — which have improved in California over the last decade — there is a hidden opportunity gap in the graduates who completed A-G coursework.

For example, while there is only a 6 percentage-point gap between the high school graduation rates of Latino students compared to their white peers (81 percent compared to 87 percent), this gap more than doubles to 13 percentage points when looking at high school graduates that met UC and CSU entrance requirements (34 percent compared to 47 percent).

Table II: 2017-18 Four-Year Cohort Graduation Rates

Race / Ethnicity Cohort Graduation Rate Graduation Rate (Only Students Meeting UC/CSU Requirements)
Asian 94{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c} 70{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c}
Filipino 93{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c} 61{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c}
White 87{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c} 47{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c}
African American 73{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c} 29{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c}
Pacific Islander 81{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c} 35{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c}
Hispanic or Latino 81{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c} 34{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c}
American Indian or Alaska Native 71{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c} 23{dc2081ac6c5cc81baef6ff3d8b7134abf68618b2dec130d45a21090cbaafa61c}

The numbers overall are troubling as well: only 41 percent of all California high school students graduate having met UC and CSU entrance requirements. That means that only two in five students graduate from high school prepared for college success.

This does not mean that there are no bright spots and great work being done across California high schools. Many of these positive examples, such as making A-G the default curriculum, have been documented in a Promising Practice Guide produced by the Education Trust-West. However, the data clearly show that more needs to be done if we are to provide equal opportunities for all students. Moreover, district leaders must continue to look at various data sources when measuring success and the true impact of their investments.

The conversations about how to best measure college and career success will continue as the State Board of Education further refines the College/Career Indicator in the California Schools Dashboard. Board members are encouraged to learn more about the indicator (more information can be found here) and continue to look at additional data sources, disaggregated by student groups, when measuring school success.