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Latinos Top Dropout List in L.B. Area

October 11, 1987|CHRIS WOODYARD | Times Staff Writer

Latino high school students had a far higher dropout rate in the Long Beach Unified School District than blacks or whites in the 1985-86 school year, according to the first detailed study in more than a decade.

The overall percentage of dropouts in the district, however, is far lower than the county average.

Fourteen percent of all Latino high school students drop out between grades 10 and 12, the study found, contrasted with 8.7% for blacks and 6.1% for whites. The Latino dropout rate was close to the 14.9% rate for Los Angeles County as a whole.

The report, which is scheduled to be reviewed Monday by the Board of Education, confirms the suspicion of the district's Hispanic Advisory Committee, whose members believe the Latino dropout rate is unacceptably high.

"I think it's abominable there should be such a high rate of Hispanic students dropping out," said Roberto Uranga, committee president, whose group urged the district to initiate a comprehensive dropout study last year.

"There are not a sufficient number of role models . . . on the high school campuses to address the special needs of Hispanic students," Uranga said.

Overall, about 7.6% of the district's high school students dropped out in 1985-86, compared to 12% in Los Angeles County and 9% statewide.

High Dropout Rate

Among the district's high schools, Reid Continuation High School--where problem students are sent--had a dropout rate of 64.3%.

Jordan High School had 8.6%, Millikan had 7.9%, Polytechnic had 5.8%, and Lakewood and Wilson both had 5% dropout rates in 1985-86. A total of 1,051 high school students, from among 13,750, dropped out of school that year.

The district's black students stayed in school at a nearly twice the county dropout rate of 15.6% and white students also did better than the county dropout rate of 9.2%.

A breakdown of the Asian dropout rate was not provided in the study.

Uranga and one of the founders of the advisory committee, Jerome Orlando Torres, said they believe that Latino dropouts rates are actually much higher than the report shows because so many students leave before high school.

Dropping out of school is only one facet of a list of problems for troubled Latino youth, Torres said.

"Many of the problems in our community are interrelated," Torres said. "Teen-age unemployment, dropouts, functional illiteracy, teen-age pregnancy, drugs, gangs, they are all symptomatic of a larger problem: the growing minority youth population."

While saying he could not offer an explanation for higher Latino dropout rates, Lewis A. Prilliman, the district's director of research, said he thinks that the district's overall dropout rate may be lower than the study's findings because of the difficulty in tracking students.

"These are overestimates of the true dropout rate," Prilliman said. "We assume if we don't hear from a kid that they dropped out of school. I think we would find a lot of these kids were in school (elsewhere)."

If a student moves out of town with his parents and does not have his records forwarded, he is counted as a dropout. But in some states, the student might be allowed to enroll in school without a proper educational record, he explained.

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