According to data just released by the California Department of Education, the number of African Americans who graduated with their class after four years of high school has increased 2.9 percent.

An estimated 65.7 percents of Black students, who started high school in 2008-09 graduated with their class in 2012.

At the same time, the dropout rate for African American students in the class of 2008-2009 decreased 4.5 percent over three years to 22.2 percent in 2012.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson attributed the improvements to a number of initiatives he put in place when he took office two years ago. These include the Blueprint for Great Schools, Career Readiness Campaign, Core Reforms Engaging Arts to Educate (CREATE), and the STEM Task Force. This is a volunteer group appointed by Torlakson to explore the status of STEM (Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics) education in curriculum, instructional practices, professional learning, student testing, existing resources, and community and business partnerships.

While the numbers are improving, African American students still lag behind their contemporaries. For example, the 22.2 percent Black dropout rate is higher than all other race groups–18.5 percent for American Indian or Alaska Native, Not Hispanic; 16.2 percent for Hispanic or Latino of Any Race; 15.8 percent of Pacific Islanders, Not Hispanic; 8.4 percent for Whites, Not Hispanic; and 5.6 percent for Asian, Not Hispanic.

The African American graduation rate of 65.7 percent trails Asian, Not Hispanic, 91 percent; White, Not Hispanic, 86.4 percent; 76.8 percent Pacific Islander, Not Hispanic; 73.2 Hispanic or Latino of Any Race; and 72.4 percent American Indian or Alaska Native, Not Hispanic.