CALPADS goes to college

Database shows big higher ed enrollment

California’s student data system has reached another milestone.  By linking the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, known as CALPADS, with two other data systems, state education officials tracked for the first time the number of high school graduates who enrolled in college – in and out of state.

2009 California high school graduates' enrollment in UC, CSU and community colleges.  Source California Postsecondary Education Commission. (Click to enlarge)

2009 California high school graduates' enrollment in UC, CSU and community colleges. Source: California Postsecondary Education Commission. (Click to enlarge)

They found that nearly three-quarters of the 382,514* high school graduates in the class of 2009 enrolled in a college or university.  More than 25,000 went to the University of California, some 44,000 enrolled in California State University, 109,000 went to a California community college, and the rest attended private colleges either in California or in another state.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson hailed the numbers as a step toward gaining a foothold in the new economy.  “In a knowledge-based economy, college and career training are becoming the price of admission to the job market,” said Torlakson in a statement released Thursday.  “So it’s good to see so many California graduates taking the next step on the path to success.”

CALPADS has had a shaky path since it was first approved in 2002.  Most recently, Gov. Brown sought to defund the data system over the summer, but wound up keeping the student system and eliminating the teacher data system, CALTIDES.

The college enrollment statistics were generated by matching student data from CALPADS with two other data systems: the National Student Clearinghouse and the California Postsecondary Education Commission (which has also been decommissioned by Gov. Brown).

“We’re now starting to track this stuff in a systematic way, which is a good thing,” said UC Santa Barbara Education Professor Russ Rumberger, founder of the California Dropout Research Project. “Now we have better and newer information than we’ve had before. Now we can see trends.”

Earlier this week, the Data Quality Campaign held a bipartisan meeting with members of Congress to discuss the need for using data to help students succeed in college.  “That’s the big issue; it’s not getting them in, it’s getting them out,” said Rumberger.  “That’s the whole push in our state today, to get them [high school students] better prepared.”

As we’ve noted in this space many times, college graduation rates, particularly for community colleges, are in dire need of improvement. The six-year graduation rates at

Costs and graduation rates at California state colleges and universities.  Source:  Public Policy Institute of California.  (click to enlarge)

Costs and graduation rates at California state colleges and universities. Source: Public Policy Institute of California. (click to enlarge)

the University of California and Cal State are 80.5 percent and just over 47 percent respectively.  At the state’s community colleges, even after six years, 70 percent of students planning on earning an Associate’s degree or certificate had not completed the work.

*Number from Data Quest

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  1. So we’re basically pushing a bunch of students who aren’t prepared for college into the university system? You already mentioned the problem with the six year graduation rate; the four year rate is totally embarrassing. Half of the students need to be remediated in college because they didn’t learn anything in K-12.  Only 28% of enrolled college students earned at least one year of credit within two years of their enrollment.  Or how the fact that “…at California public colleges, first-year dropouts accounted for about $466 million in state funding.”  Remember that story?
    All things considered I’m not sure the state should be “hailing” this one cherry picked statistic.  In fact, when you look at it in context we’re doing students a major disservice by chaining them (and taxpayers) to thousands of dollars in debt and giving them nothing for it.

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  2. The open admissions policy at the CC’s has to be reconsidered.  The problem with open admissions to the CC’s is that students and educators don’t take HS seriously since the CC’s are supposedly available to remediate the work that should have happened in HS.   You have to have an MA to teach in a CC and we have them teaching remedial algebra 1.  Recall all that fuss about CAHSEE making it too hard to graduate?  Couldn’t devalue a HS diploma fast enough for some educators.
    Put the remediation in evening HS or adult ed where it is considerably cheaper.  This would also put on notice the HS goof offs and those who think HS is a time for sports that pretty talk about creativity is a bunch of hooey and what it takes to succeed in college is hard work.  It is better to start in HS (or earlier) because habits formed there last a lifetime.
    I will keep on stating that we should emulate other countries which have a 5th year of HS for the college bound to mature and do the basics  through AP and remediation so they are really ready to be in college.  That would be a lot cheaper for everyone.  The US has about the same %-age of HS grads going on to college as other countries but we are behind in graduates.
    See the OECD table:,/ns/StatisticalPublication&itemId=/content/table/20755120-table1&containerItemId=/content/tablecollection/20755120&accessItemIds=&mimeType=text/html

    “The United States has a comparatively low graduation rate, in part because the U.S. has the highest college dropout rate among OECD countries.” see :

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  3. A substantial portion of the long graduation times at all three institutions is financial. A lot of these students are working on their degree while commuting and working 30-40 hours a week… which also conflicts with getting prerequisite classes in some cases. I don’t think you can assume anything in particular about their preparation without more data.

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  4. Michael, your data is particularly frightening when put together so that we compare what the average American and Korean, for example, have learned in math by the time they have finished high school and are entering college, at age 18. In Korea, all–100%–of those high schools students will have begun calculus in the 11th grade, whereas probably fewer than 1% of American students will have done so (a quick check of AP calculus data for 11th graders will pretty nearly determine the number). At 18, the typical American high school graduate will have learned some intermediate algebra, no more, which Koreans and other east Asians will have learned in 9th grade. When they enter college, the difference shows, which can be seen not just between the countries but in this country, when you compare the college success of Asians with that of all other ethnicities, especially in math. I have made this point repeatedly on this site, yet as long as the thought leadership in Silicon Valley education circles remains committed to the social agenda of No Child Left Behind, you can be quite confident that your children will be left behind.

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  5. I find it exceedingly hard to believe that 100% of Korean 16 year olds take calculus. 100% of every single one – including Down syndrome children, severely disabled children, and the like? A link would be great.

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  6. Here’s the link, el: Please look at pages 5 and 6.
    I should qualify my previous statement a bit: the 100% referred to students still in general secondary schools; around a quarter of all Korean students opt for vocational schools during the high school years, so the figure is more realistically between 70 and 80 percent of the cohort. But it’s 100% of those still in general education and planning to go to college.
    This is a major concern because our Common Core standards have just committed us to a long-term status of inferiority in this regard: in spite of their mandate, the committees coming up with the standards have failed to provide Americans with the chance to learn a world-class curriculum.

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  7. Let’s examine these numbers (BTW, is there a link to the original source?):
    25,000 to UC –> 6.5% of graduating high schoolers
    44,000 to CSU –> 11.5% of graduating high schoolers
    Compare these percentages with the California Master Plan of Higher Education percentages: top 12.5% of California’s graduating seniors are eligible to be considered for admission to UC. What happened to the other 6%? All of them went out of state?
    The Master Plan also states that the top 33% is eligible for admission to CSU. Subtracting 12.5 from this leaves 20.5% of graduating seniors. Yet only 11.5% went to CSU. What happened to the other 9%? Also went out of state?
    Maybe “el”‘s statement about financial hardship applies here: that 6% + 9% just can’t afford to enroll even with the “generous” financial aid offered by the Feds and the state and go to CC sto bide their time or simply stay at the AA level. Talk about squandering human capital.
    The alternative is that this 15% of high-achievers is part of the 30% that attends private colleges in California or goes to out-of-state schools. Is there enough capacity in the state for them to remain in the state? If not, how many of them do not return?  Again, it seems to me that the state is losing human resources because it is not maintaining its 13-16 system. Is this why some in Silicon Valley advocate the increases in H-1B visas? Cheaper to import educated labor than to grow our own, I guess.
    Another BTW: the size of the 11th grade cohort in 2008 was about 440,000 students, as derived from  the number of students taking the ELA CST. If 384,514 graduated one year later in 2009, this means that the dropout rate was roughly about 13%. So why is the dropout rate quoted much higher? The discrepancy should not be this great.

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