Fresno Unified College and Career Readiness:

More Students Graduating, But Are They Truly Ready for College and Career?

For the last couple of years our community has celebrated our improving graduation rates, and rightfully so.  The growth in Fresno Unified’s graduation rates is almost double the state average over the last five years!  Despite these gains, though, we still have huge portions of our high school graduates who are not graduating with the skills they need to be successful in college or career.

As part of Choosing Our Future 2.0, GO Public Schools Fresno has committed itself, alongside families, educators, and community members, to provide an honest and transparent accounting of how we have grown and where we still need to grow. In that vein, we have taken a close look at Fresno Unified data and we will be publishing a series of blog posts highlighting different aspects of that analysis, and share what we are learning with you.

In this first part of the series, we’re taking a look at graduation rates, as well as college and career readiness among Fresno graduates.

The story of Fresno Unified graduation rates over the last six years is one of strong and steady improvement. Overall, our schools have increased their graduation rates by 16.2%, far outpacing the state. The results are even more dramatic among a number of vulnerable student groups, in which graduation rates increased by

  • 17.8% for economically disadvantaged students,
  • 24.4% for English Language Learners and
  • 22.9% for students with special needs.

Although work remains to ensure we are closing the gap for our English Language Learners and students with special needs, we can still be proud of our growth to date in Fresno Unified.

While graduation rates have improved in Fresno Unified, we must dig deeper to look at other data that helps us better understand whether our young people are prepared to thrive, no matter whether they choose to pursue a college education or directly enter the workforce.  Defining what it truly takes to be successful in college or in a career is hard, but almost everyone agrees that to be successful in either a young person must possess basic readiness in English and Math.  

One of the best ways to assess readiness is by looking at the scores of 11th grade students on end-of-year exams in Math and English.  When we look at how our students are doing on these tests, the situation is much more dire.

  • 2 of 5 high school juniors (41%) meet 11th grade standards in English.  
  • Fewer than 1 of 5 high school juniors (18%) meet 11th grade standards in Math.

When we look at graduation rates and 11th grade tests scores together we see a troubling theme: There is a huge gap (65.3%) between the percent of students who are graduating and those who are graduating with the basic readiness to succeed in college or career.

This gap is even more severe for our most traditionally underserved ethnicities (see graph below).

While the quantity of high school diplomas has increased, serious questions remain about the extent to which these same diplomas represent readiness for the adult world.

GO Fresno wants to hear as many opinions as possible about this and other questions. Whether you’re a Fresno Unified student, parent of a student or someone who cares for a student, what do you think?

If you haven’t already, please take 5 minutes to fill out our Choosing Our Future 2.0 Community Survey.

If you want to join in our Choosing Our Future 2.0 community conversation gatherings this fall, please be sure to sign up for our email list at the bottom of this page so we can keep you informed!

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