Campus: CSU, Fresno -- September 24, 1999

Valley High Schools Losing Students At Alarming Rates

A report released by the Central California Futures Institute (CCFI) ranks Fresno County high school attrition rates at more than 39 percent -- twice as high as four other Valley counties.

Dr. John Wetzel, executive director of CCFI at California State University, Fresno, said the report shows Madera and Stanislaus counties as having the lowest attrition rates throughout the Valley.

The attrition rate figures represent the number of high school freshmen that do not enroll as seniors.

According to the CCFI report, the attrition rate for the most recent graduating class in the nine-county San Joaquin Valley is 23.5 percent, identical to California's overall attrition rate.

Today's Valley attrition rates are considered an improvement from more than a decade ago, when 32 percent of freshmen did not enroll as seniors. For every 100 students enrolling as ninth graders in 1988, only 68 enrolled as seniors.

"It is disheartening to realize that almost a fourth of our students in the Valley are not making it to their senior year," said Wetzel. "Even though the attrition rates have improved over the last 12 years, the rate is still too high."

Wetzel, who also is researching workforce development, said the CCFI report indicates a relationship between high school attrition rates and the development of a skilled workforce.

Wetzel said that the first step in workforce development is education and that employees without a high school education are highly susceptible to employment situations such as seasonal layoffs and lower paying positions.

Wetzel said it is important for students to build a practical context for skills learned in the classroom and to stay connected in school and learn basic skills required in the workforce -- such as reading, math, computers and communication skills.

"Connecting students with local businesses is one way communities are linking schools with work and giving students the incentive needed to finish their senior year," said Wetzel.

The CCFI researched Valley attrition rates to show a relationship with education and workforce development in Fresno County -- a county that reflects one of the highest unemployment rates in the Valley.

Valley counties ranked in order from highest to lowest by high school attrition rates are: Fresno, Kern, Mariposa, Kings, Merced, Tulare, San Joaquin, Madera, and Stanislaus.


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