CALPADS goes to college

California’s student data system has reached another milestone.  By linking the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, known as CALPADS, with two other data systems, state education officials tracked for the first time the number of high school graduates who enrolled in college – in and out of state.

2009 California high school graduates' enrollment in UC, CSU and community colleges.  Source California Postsecondary Education Commission. (Click to enlarge)
2009 California high school graduates' enrollment in UC, CSU and community colleges. Source: California Postsecondary Education Commission. (Click to enlarge)

They found that nearly three-quarters of the 382,514* high school graduates in the class of 2009 enrolled in a college or university.  More than 25,000 went to the University of California, some 44,000 enrolled in California State University, 109,000 went to a California community college, and the rest attended private colleges either in California or in another state.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson hailed the numbers as a step toward gaining a foothold in the new economy.  “In a knowledge-based economy, college and career training are becoming the price of admission to the job market,” said Torlakson in a statement released Thursday.  “So it’s good to see so many California graduates taking the next step on the path to success.”

CALPADS has had a shaky path since it was first approved in 2002.  Most recently, Gov. Brown sought to defund the data system over the summer, but wound up keeping the student system and eliminating the teacher data system, CALTIDES.

The college enrollment statistics were generated by matching student data from CALPADS with two other data systems: the National Student Clearinghouse and the California Postsecondary Education Commission (which has also been decommissioned by Gov. Brown).

“We’re now starting to track this stuff in a systematic way, which is a good thing,” said UC Santa Barbara Education Professor Russ Rumberger, founder of the California Dropout Research Project. “Now we have better and newer information than we’ve had before. Now we can see trends.”

Earlier this week, the Data Quality Campaign held a bipartisan meeting with members of Congress to discuss the need for using data to help students succeed in college.  “That’s the big issue; it’s not getting them in, it’s getting them out,” said Rumberger.  “That’s the whole push in our state today, to get them [high school students] better prepared.”

As we’ve noted in this space many times, college graduation rates, particularly for community colleges, are in dire need of improvement. The six-year graduation rates at

Costs and graduation rates at California state colleges and universities.  Source:  Public Policy Institute of California.  (click to enlarge)
Costs and graduation rates at California state colleges and universities. Source: Public Policy Institute of California. (click to enlarge)

the University of California and Cal State are 80.5 percent and just over 47 percent respectively.  At the state’s community colleges, even after six years, 70 percent of students planning on earning an Associate’s degree or certificate had not completed the work.

*Number from Data Quest

Author: Kathryn Baron

Kathryn Baron, co-writer of TOP-Ed (Thoughts On Public Education in California), has been covering education in California for about 15 years; most of that time at KQED Public Radio where her reports aired on The California Report as well as various National Public Radio programs. She also wrote for magazines and newspapers before going virtual as producer and editor at The George Lucas Educational Foundation. Kathy grew up in New York in a family of teachers. She moved to California for graduate school and after spending one sunny New Year’s Day riding her bicycle in the foothills, decided to stay. She and her husband live in Belmont. They have two children, one in college and one in high school.

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