Oxnard Union High School District Graduation Rates – A Smokescreen



By Manuela Walter

The April 28th Camarillo Acorn published an article titled “District reports rise in graduation rates.” The article states that “The Oxnard-based high school district’s 2016 graduation rate was 83.7 percent.  It was the fourth year of steady improvement and was higher than the state’s record 83.2 percent graduation rate last year, according to information released April 11 by the State Department of Education.” In the article, Oxnard Union High School Superintendent Penelope De Leon is quoted in an eMail as saying, “I am always happy when our results improve as this is a result of a great deal of hard work and dedication by our staff, students and families. I would like the graduation rate to reach 100 percent, as I believe that every student should have multiple post-secondary options beyond the diploma.”

The Acorn article cites Dr. De Leon as saying that having seniors prepared for either college or a career upon graduation is the focus of OUHSD. She also said that the district is working on providing every student with a chance to take Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and to ensure “every senior applies and is accepted to a two-year or four-year college.”

OUHSD should not pat themselves on the back too quickly. Most people who read the Acorn article or hear the graduation statistic may think this is great news and that OUHSD is doing a great job. However, we know that the graduation rate is not an accurate indicator of students’ readiness for college. Don’t fall for the smokescreen.

An 83.7 percent OUHSD graduation rate may seem wonderful if you look no further than that statistic. If you look beyond the graduation rate, there is a huge gap… the “college readiness” rates and math and English proficiency rates are much lower. Given Superintendent De Leon’s goal is to have every senior accepted into college, this should be of tremendous concern to parents and the OUHSD Board.

If you do some digging into the California Department of Education website http://www.cde.ca.gov/, you can find various statistics. Of the almost 2,000 OUHSD seniors who took the SAT in 2016, on average, only 40.52% achieved the combined Reading & Writing and Math scores that The College Board considers “college and career ready.” The Ventura County average was 58.75% and the statewide average was 45.56%, meaning that in 2016, OUHSD schools, on average, tested lower than both Ventura County and state averages for college and career readiness. Now that we know this, we have to question the standard of education in our OUHSD schools that resulted in an 83.7% graduation rate in 2016, but only a 40.52% SAT passing rate which assesses the critical reading, math, and writing skills that students need to be successful in college.

Another statistic from the California Department of Education website is the “12th grade graduates who have completed all courses required for UC and/or CSU entrance.” The OUHSD average for the 2015-2016 school year is 27.1%. Of course, not all high school graduates will go directly to a 4-year college, however, I think we can agree that this percentage is extremely low.

Another measure is the ACT test, which is designed to assess high school students’ general educational development and their ability to complete college-level work. The ACT test covers four subject areas: English, math, reading, and science. Each subject area test receives a score ranging from 1 to 36, 21 being the designated average score. The composite score is the average of all four subject area test scores. According to the California Department of Education website, many colleges and universities use ACT scores as one factor in making admissions decisions. Of the 562 OUHSD students tested in the 2015-2016 school year, only 48.58% achieved the composite average score of 21 or greater, and none of the tested students achieved a score higher than 26 in any of the disciplines. The Ventura County average was 71.16% and the statewide average was 57.44%. Again, OUHSD students, on average, scored lower than both the Ventura County and state composite scores. It appears that the OUHSD curriculum is not preparing the majority of students for college.

U.S. News & World Report recently came out with their 2017 list of High School Rankings nationwide https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/california/districts/oxnard-union-high-105081

Their data came from official state sources for the 2014-2015 school year (2015 graduates). Their report included graduation percentage rates, AP Test passing rates, and English and Math proficiency rates. U.S. News determined the OUHSD average for English proficiency at 48%, and math proficiency at 46%.

The fact that only the seemingly-high graduation rate was made public makes me wonder if the OUHSD Board is doing something to address this. I have to believe that they are aware of these statistics. I certainly hope that their thinking is not that once the students have graduated they are no longer their problem. If so, they are doing the students, their parents, and our community a huge disservice.

Parents, don’t be fooled by the smokescreen of seemingly high graduation rates. Get involved in your kids’ education. If they intend to go to college we know that most of them have not been prepared by their schools and school district.

Manuela Walter lives in Camarillo



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