May 17, 2016

Almost 85-percent of West Contra Costa Unified (WCCUSD) students in the Class of 2015 have earned their high school diploma, a 7-percent increase from the previous class, according to the district, citing data released Tuesday by the California Department of Education.

WCCUSD results also exceed the state’s graduation rate of 82.3 percent.

Of the 1,868 students from the Class of 2015 began in the 2011-12 school year, 1,583 graduated with a high school diploma and 42 received a special education certificate of completion. There are 108 students still enrolled and working on achieving a high school diploma. The class had a 7.2 percent dropout rate over its four years, down 7 percent from the Class of 2014, the district said. That beats the statewide rate of 10.7 percent.

Kennedy High’s graduation rate of 87.3 percent for the Class of 2015 is up from 64.6-percent the previous year, the district said, while De Anza High saw its rate grow from 82.1 to 87.9 percent in those same years.

Kennedy Principal Phil Johnson credits the turnaround to his staff embracing a modified block schedule allowing students to take eight classes a year, thus earning more credits. Their senior year, they can take courses at Contra Costa College.

“Under the old schedule, there was no room for error if a student failed a course,” Johnson said in the statement. “Our staff recognized that we were losing a lot of our students and something needed to be done. They did it for our students because they thought it would work, and it has.”

The new schedule is so effective that Johnson said he believes the graduation rate will jump again for the class of 2016.

There were improvements in the percentage of African American and Latin Americans who earned their diplomas.

“Our focus on preparing students for college and career and the supportive programs we’ve put into place are resulting in more students graduating on time,” Board President Randy Enos said in a statement.”We have plenty of work to do, but the data clearly indicates that we are taking the right steps to improve the academic standing for all of our students.



  1. This is heartening news; kudos to the leadership and staff at JFK! However, it’s a real disappointment that neither Richmond Standard or WCCUSD could take the time to find a photo of Kennedy high school students. Even the WCCUSD article appearing on their own homepage shows a photo of El Cerrito grads against a background photo of their beautiful, modern school. Why not post a photo of Kennedy students in front of their school building? Are they embarrassed to put on display the fact that the poorest kids in the District are succeeding even without a shiny, modern new campus?

    Richmond Resident | May 18th, 2016
  2. I did not see this mentioned in the article, but aren’t the improvement in graduation rates also because students no longer have to take/pass the CAHSEE exit exam?

    Richmond Proud | May 21st, 2016
  3. Maybe I am too much of a skeptic but, I don’t really see this as completely good news. It seems as if the process to graduate has been adjusted to increase the graduation rate and reduce the retention rate BUT that does not necessarily mean the education has gotten any better. The higher rate is nice, but if it’s because more kids are having to go to CC College to take classes that give more credits to make up for the classes they failed at their district school, obviously there is still an education issue. An increase in the graduation rate due to adjustments to the graduation process seems to me, to represent an increase in the success rate of schooling but NOT a representation of better education WITHIN the schooling.
    I graduated from DeAnza High School. Now, I am not sure how true this actually was, but graduates of DeAnza in 2007 were told a perfect 4.0 GPA at DeAnza was equivalent to a 2.0 GPA in surrounding schools that had more money and resources. Which is why I don’t care too much for graduation rates but, moreso about the quality of education and opportunities available after graduation. A diploma, especially in todays economy, is not as valuable as it once was.

    Richmond Resident "9" | May 25th, 2016

About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.