About 92.5 percent of the seniors in the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District graduated last year. That's 14.2 percent more than the 78.3 percent of seniors who graduated countywide, according to a recent report from the Santa Clara County Office of Education. That's also 18.1 percent better than the statewide graduation rate of 74.4 percent.
On top of that, 66.4 percent of the class of 2010 graduated with all the necessary requirements — known as "A-G requirements" — to move on to a University of California or California State University school. Countywide, only 50.5 percent of seniors graduated with those requirements in 2009-10.
"I'm pleased," Superintendent Barry Groves said. "Given our student population, I think we're doing exceedingly well."
Still, 69 the 921 enrolled seniors did not graduate last year — 25 from Mountain View High School, four from Los Altos High School, and 40 from the district's continuation school, Alta Vista. And while that number represents the third-lowest dropout rate in Santa Clara County according to the Office of Education's report, Groves said he would like to see his district do better.
"Obviously we're pleased to be better than those averages," he said, "but we don't really compare ourselves to state averages. Our expectations are much higher. Our goal is to have zero dropouts."
Asked whether he thought some dropouts were inevitable — especially given his district's low-income and English-learning populations — Groves was diplomatic, answering the question by pointing to all the programs MVLA has in place to help students succeed. They include the district's summer school and adult school, as well as a variety of trade-oriented classes aimed at engaging kids who aren't on the college track.
"We've been able to maintain the academic integrity of our current programs," Groves said, even as the district has had to scale back its budget by about $3 million over the past few years. One reason for this, he said, is that property values in Mountain View and Los Altos have not been hit as hard by the recession as they have in other places around the state, where districts have had to eliminate summer school in order to save money.
Wealthy local donors and companies such as Google — which recently gave the district a $120,000 grant to improve science and math learning — are also helpful.
Charles Weis, the county superintendent of schools, said local educators "need to do a better job of serving all of our students," and Groves agrees.
"One of our significant goals is to close the achievement gap — particularly with the Latino students," Groves said. In an effort to shrink that gap, the MVLA board of trustees recently approved two special allocations totaling $115,000 to help improve math learning and to focus on Latino student achievement.
In 2008-09, it appears that the district, the county and the state all had higher graduation rates — 94.9 percent, 81.5 percent and 78.6 percent respectively. The data from that year also show that the district graduated more seniors with A-G requirements.
However, according to California Department of Education spokeswoman Tina Jung, those percentages should not be compared with this year's, as 2010 is the first year that the state has enough data to begin using its new, more accurate, tracking system.