Why Is This Important?

Early education can put a child on a good footing for life, as they are better prepared to face the rigors of K-12 education. Similarly, high school graduation rates indicate how well a region is preparing its students for post-secondary education; while, high school dropout rates signify a challenge that a region must address. High school dropouts are more likely to be unemployed than high school graduates and earn less when they are employed. Variations in dropout rates by race and ethnicity reveal further disparities in opportunity. Also of particular interest are the percentage of graduating students that meet University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) entrance requirements, as these institutes offer the most direct access to affordable higher education and professional training for many California residents. Promoting classes such as advanced math and science can help prepare students for post-secondary education and the workforce.

How Are We Doing?
Preschool enrollment in Solano County has been lower than that of the rest of the Bay Area, Sacramento and Yolo Counties, and California. In 2008, 33 percent of children age three to five in Solano County attended preschool or nursery school. This is 5 percent less than the California average. However, although preschool enrollment for three to five year olds has declined 6 percent since 2002, enrollment has been increasing more recently. Since 2006, preschool enrollment has risen 4 percent, to 33 percent, which is the most significant upturn of the last nine years.

Solano County has recently made headway in reducing high school dropout rates across almost all ethnicities and races. The overall dropout rate, a comparison of the total count of dropouts over the entire year to a single day of enrollment, for Solano County for the 2007- 2008 school year was 22 percent, down from 28 percent from the previous year. This same trend was observed on the statewide level, which had a dropout rate of 19 percent in 2007-08, down from 21 percent in the previous year. Pacific Islanders experienced the largest decline in dropout rate – 39 percent in 2006-07 to 24 percent in 2007-08. Hispanics also experienced a dramatic decline in dropouts from 42 percent to 32 percent over the same period. Notably, the dropout rates for all seven ethnic groups either declined or remained constant in 2007-08 compared to the previous academic year; however, the "other" category experienced an increased dropout rate from 22 percent in 2007-06 to 28 percent in 2007-08. Other includes students with multiple responses or no response. In addition, according to the California Department of Education, at-risk students who attend alternative schools and dropout recovery high schools, and then dropout will not be included in the traditional high school dropout rate but will be attributed to either an alternative school or other educational program.

Despite the recent success in decreasing the high school dropout rates, high school graduation rates in Solano County and California have declined. The graduation rate for both the county and state decreased in 2007-08 over the prior year, by 4 percent and 1 percent respectively. In addition, Solano County's graduation rate has lagged behind the state's rate for the past two years. In 2006-07 Solano County had a graduation rate of 79 percent compared to 81 percent statewide. This disparity expanded in 2007-08 with Solano County's graduation rate falling to 75 percent and the state's declining to 80 percent.

Solano County is at risk of its youth falling behind in the job market compared to students in the rest of the state. In 2007-2008, the percentage of graduates who met UC/CSU requirements for Solano County was 27 percent compared to 34 percent statewide. This divergence puts Solano County workers at a future disadvantage, as fewer residents are able to attain higher education and professional training. However, Asian (47%), Filipino (42%) and White (37%) ethnic groups all experienced a higher percentage of graduates with UC/CSU requirements than the overall rate for the county (27%). Conversely, African American (15%) had the lowest percentage of students graduating with UC/CSU requirements. Although 19 percent of the employment in the fastest-growing occupations required at least a Bachelor’s Degree in 2008, as illustrated on page 39, a decrease in the percentage of students graduating with UC/CSU requirements could lead to a future mismatch in the marketplace.

Students in Solano County have enrolled in fewer upper-level math and science courses, though this trend is similar to the rest of the state. The overall enrollment in upper-level math and science in grades 9-12 decreased by 2 percent in Solano County this year. Moreover, the enrollment declined by 21 percent in First-Year Physics and 42 percent in Advanced Math from 2007-08 to 2008-09. During the same period, enrollment in general math and remedial math/proficiency development increased by 45 percent and 57 percent, respectively.

Starting with the school year 2006-2007, the California Department of Education derived dropout and graduate counts by tracking individual students. This approach more accurately reflects the in-and-out transferring of students in a four-year high school graduating class. Before the use of student identifiers, aggregate data on enrollment and dropouts were used to estimate dropout rates.