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Bay Area Figures Startling In Latest High School Dropout Report

(KCBS/AP) - A new state report showed that California public high school students were graduating at a higher rate, but more students also were dropping out.

"The dropout rates in the state are up and graduation rates in the state are up, and that's because we really have a third category. And the third category would be neither you graduate nor drop out," summed up Superintendent Jack O'Connell.

KCBS' Holly Quan Reports:

The Department of Education report released Tuesday found that about 70% of public school students graduated from high school during the 2008-09 school year - an improvement from 68.5% the previous school year.

Meanwhile, the four-year dropout rate for the school year is 21.7% - up from the previous year's 18.9%.

"So the dropout rate in California remains too high, it's unacceptable and absolutely must be addressed," O'Connell declared.

In San Francisco, where officials have focused on cutting truancy rates, the dropout numbers were cut in half - down from 18% to 9%.

"We are thrilled," enthused San Francisco Unified School District spokeswoman Gentle Blythe. "We're thrilled for this as well as the fact that our overall achievement scores are going up, particularly we're narrowing the achievement gap."

"A lot of the times when students are missing school from a young age, that's a predictor of them eventually dropping out. So we started young to really make sure that parents get the support that they need to get their kids to school."

San Jose saw a slight increase in dropouts, from 9.6% to 10.3%.

The report was disappointing in the East Bay, where Oakland's dropout rate soared from just over 28% to 40%.

Statewide, California dropout rates for African-American students remained the highest at 36.9%, and Hispanic students followed at 26.9%. Both groups saw their dropout rates worsen by three percentage points each from the previous school year.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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