Area graduation ceremonies for 2016 have been completed and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has reportedly made great progress in preparing youth for success. High school graduation rates have increased sharply over the past five years to a record 72 percent (from 62 percent), and dropouts have declined by one-third (from 25 percent to 17 percent). While unacceptable disparities still exist, LAUSD officials say they have made significant progress in closing the gap for lower income and minority students.

The most notable improvement has been LAUSD’s success in preparing graduates to enter California’s four-year universities. The percentage of high school graduates eligible for entry to the California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) systems has risen steeply from 35 percent in 2011 to 52 percent in 2015. This improvement exceeded statewide gains and surpassed the current California rate of 43 percent. The percentages reflect students who completed every CSU/UC-required course and earned at least a C grade in each mandatory class.

LAUSD made these notable improvements in graduation rates and academic preparation while implementing more rigorous standards. All students must now complete a full complement of college-track courses with a passing grade in order to graduate. Students have thrived under the district’s new focus on college preparation and keeping youth in school with a purposeful reduction in suspensions. The district also implemented proactive strategies to increase student engagement through smaller, more personalized learning environments and an emphasis on Linked Learning Career Pathways, the approach which integrates rigorous academics that meet college-ready standards with sequenced, high-quality career-technical education, work-based learning, and support to help students stay on track.