ABOUT CDRP                     Activities      |         Funding      |         Impact      |         About CDRP's Director      |         CDRP Staff


The California Dropout Research Project (CDRP) was established in December 2006 to synthesize existing research and undertake new research to inform policymakers, educators and the general public about the nature of the dropout crisis in California and to help the state develop a meaningful policy agenda to address the problem.


To accomplish its mission, the project has engaged in three major activities:

  • Research: The project has commissioned a series of studies by leading scholars throughout the United States to synthesize existing research and to undertake new research on the four major facets of the dropout issue. To date, 22 research studies have been completed.

    In addition, the project staff has produced a series of statistical briefs on more specific aspects of the issue. To date, 24 statistical briefs have been completed.

    The project staff has also produced a series of City Dropout Profiles documenting the economic losses from dropouts in 27 major California cities who are part of the California Mayors' Education Roundtable.

  • Policy: The project has developed a policy agenda for the state to address the dropout crisis. To develop the policy agenda, the project established a Policy Committee composed of educators, policymakers, researchers, and a community activist. The committee met three times over a 10-month period in 2007 and issued its report, Solving California's Dropout Crisis, on February 27, 2008. The report recommends a series of actions that the state, districts, and schools should take to help solve the dropout crisis in the state.

    In December 2006, California State Senator Darrell Steinberg, a member of the CDRP Policy Committee, established the Senate Select Committee on High School Graduation. CDRP Project Director Russell Rumberger worked closely with Senator Steinberg and his staff to plan and participate in a series of five hearings that highlighted various aspects of the dropout crisis and to present new research from the project.

    In December 2007, The California Mayors' Education Roundtable was established to bring together mayors and their key staff members to discuss education and youth issues and develop common ground to work collectively on statewide education and related issues. At the first meeting, the mayors decided to focus on the issue of dropouts. Dr. Rumberger has been meeting with the group and working with its Director, Paul Koehler, to support the activities of the Roundtable, which includes producing the CDRP City Dropout Profiles.

    On August 28,2009 Director Rumberger testified at the first hearing of the California State Assembly Select Committee on Lowering California's High School Dropout Rates, chaired by Assemblymember Alyson Huber. On August 10, 2010 Director Rumberger testified at a follow-up hearing.

    CDRP Director Rumberger continues working on activities to implement the various recommendations in the CDRP Policy Report. He recently authored a policy memo on additional indicators the state could produce with its existing longitudinal student data system, the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). This information and a recommendation from the CDRP Policy Report for issuing an annual high school dropout report were incorporated into Senate Bill 651, sponsored by Senators Romero and Steinberg.

  • Dissemination: The project has undertaken a number of dissemination activities.

    A project website was created in January 2007 that includes a distinct project logo. The website contains extensive information about all the activities and products of the project. The website also contains information about dropout activities and products produced by outside organizations and includes a (reference or resource) list of dropout reports issued by these and other organizations.

    CDRP produced Policy Briefs-—four-page summaries of the major findings—-from each of the research studies that are written for a general (non-academic) audience (see "Research", above). CDRP prints and distributes these Policy Briefs to a mailing list of 850 persons including all state legislators, all district superintendents of secondary school districts, all county superintendents, and select education stakeholders at the state level. In addition, initial copies of Statistical Briefs and Policy Briefs were mailed to a separate list of about 80 key state education stakeholders and foundation officers.

    The project has worked with two communication firms to help publicize the activities of the project. The communication firms helped to draft and disseminate a number of press releases on the project and its work.

    CDRP Director Rumberger has written three op-ed articles on the project and the research findings. A number of presentations and other activities were undertaken to develop public awareness of the project and of the dropout crisis in California at the state, national, and international levels.


The project is currently funded by the Stuart Foundation. The project has also received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, and the Walter S. Johnson Foundation.


Based on a number of indicators, the project has had a great impact on the visibility and substantive work on the issue of high school dropouts in California (For more information, see most recent Report to Funders):

  • Research: Since October 5, 2007 (when the project implemented a document counter), more than 90,000 copies of the 96 CDRP publications have been downloaded from the CDRP website.
  • Policy CDRP policy recommendations have been incorporated into six California State Senate bills:
    • 2008:
      • SB 1251 (Introduced by Senator Steinberg, February 15, 2008).
      This bill would include 5- and 6-year graduation rates in the indicators currently reported to the department for purposes of calculating a school's Academic Performance Index (API). The bill would specify a formula to calculate these rates, and would provide that schools receive partial credit in their API scores for graduating pupils in 5 and 6 years, except that schools would be granted full credit for graduating in 5 or 6 years a pupil with disabilities who graduates in accordance with his or her individualized education program (Signed into law by the Governor September 30, 2008).
    • • SB 1532 (Introduced by Senator Steinberg, February 22, 2008).
      This bill would establish a goal of attaining a statewide high school graduation rate of 90 percent, and provide that a school district or high school would demonstrate adequate yearly progress for purposes of the No Child Left Behind Act by attaining a 90 percent graduation rate or by reducing the gap between its graduation rate and the 90 percent target by 10 percent every 2 years. This bill would also require local education agencies to provide supplemental instruction for pupils in grades 7-12 who are not demonstrating sufficient progress toward completing coursework required for graduation (From Senate Appropriations Committee without further action November 30, 2008).
    • 2009:
      • SB 651 (Introduced by Senators Romero and Steinberg, February 27, 2009).
      This bill would require the Superintendent, on or before August 1, 2011, and annually thereafter, to submit to the Governor, the Legislature, and the state board, a report called the Annual Report on Dropouts in California. The bill would require, among other things, that the report contain specified information on dropout rates, graduation rates, pupil promotion rates, course enrollment patterns, and behavioral data. The bill would require that the report include data from the most recent year and, at a minimum, the two prior years. The bill would also require the Superintendent to make an oral presentation of the contents of the report to the state board and to make the contents of the report available on the department's Internet Web site. The bill would state the intent of the Legislature that the report be usable by specified groups for analyzing the high rate of dropouts in California (Signed into law by the Governor October 11, 2009).
    • 2010:
      • SB 1357 (Introduced by Senators Steinberg and Alquist, February 19, 2010).
      Contingent upon the receipt of federal funding for this purpose, this bill requires the California Department of Education to include data on student absences in the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). The bill further declares the intent of the Legislature to support the development of an early warning system to identify and support individual students who are at risk of academic failure or of dropping out of school (Signed into law by the Governor September 30, 2010).
    • 2011:
      • SB 547 (Introduced by Senator Steinberg, February 17, 2011).
      The bill would require the Superintendent, in consultation with a specified advisory committee, to develop an Education Quality Index (EQI), which would replace the Academic Performance Index (API) and consist of a State Assessment Index, a Graduation Rate Index, a College Preparedness Index, and a Career Readiness Index. The bill would require that these indices consist of specified criteria. In developing the EQI, the Superintendent and this advisory committee would be required to consult with the University of California, the California State University, the California Community Colleges, the Employment Development Department, and other appropriate entities. The bill would require the state board to provide opportunities for public input, make changes as necessary, and adopt the EQI no later than August 1, 2014. Commencing with the 2014–15 school year, the bill would require that all schools and school districts be evaluated using an EQI value. The bill would require the Superintendent to report to the Governor and the appropriate policy and fiscal committees of the Legislature by July 1, 2013, and annually thereafter, specified information relating to the creation of additional indices. The bill also would require the Superintendent, in consultation with a specified advisory committee, and subject to an appropriation in the annual Budget Act or another statute for this purpose, to contract for an independent evaluation of the effectiveness and reliability of the EQI and any statutory changes recommended for improvement, and to submit the evaluation and recommendations in a report to the Governor and the appropriate policy and fiscal committees of the Legislature by July 1, 2018 (Vetoed by the Governor October 8, 2011).
    • 2012:
      • SB 1458 (Introduced by Senator Steinberg, February 24 2012).
      This bill would authorize the Superintendent to develop and implement a specified program of school quality review to complement the Academic Performance Index (API), if an appropriation for this purpose is made in the annual Budget Act. The bill would require the Superintendent to annually provide to local educational agencies and the public an explanation of the individual components of the API and their relative values, as specified, and would prohibit an additional element from being incorporated into the API until at least one full school year after the state board’s decision to include the element into the API. The bill would also require the Superintendent to annually determine the accuracy of graduation rate data, and would delete the requirement that the Superintendent report annually to the Legislature on graduation and dropout rates. The bill would authorize the Superintendent to incorporate into the API the rates at which pupils successfully promote from one grade to the next in middle school and high school and matriculate from middle school to high school, as well as pupil preparedness for postsecondary education and career. The bill would delete the requirement that the API be used to measure the progress of specified schools and to rank all public schools for the purpose of the High Achieving/Improving Schools Program. To the extent this bill would require school districts to report additional data for 93 purposes of inclusion in the API or other school quality review, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program (Approved by the Governor September 26, 2012).
  • Public Awareness: The project has also generated considerable media attention. In the print media alone, 40 newspaper articles, 12 editorials, and 3 op-ed articles have appeared, which has generated 50 million media impressions (calculated by multiplying the circulation number by 2.4, the number or readers or viewers who, according to Nielsen Media Research, will come into contact with each publication circulated).
  • In April 2008, Education Week, the nation’s leading education newspaper featured a two-page story on the project.

    Media Clip Analysis (PDF)


Russell W. Rumberger, Director. Email: [email protected]

The California Dropout Research Project was founded and is directed by Russell W. Rumberger, Professor of Education, UC Santa Barbara.

A faculty member at UCSB since 1987, Professor Rumberger has published widely in several areas of education: education and work; the schooling of disadvantaged students; school effectiveness; and education policy. He has been conducting research on school dropouts for the past 25 years and has written over 40 research papers and essays on the topic. His most recent book is "Dropping Out: Why Students Drop Out of School and What Can Be Done About It" (2011, Harvard University Press).

He served as a member of three National Research Council’s (NRC) committees: The Committee on Increasing High School Students’ Engagement and Motivation to Learn, which issued the highly regarded volume, Engaging Schools: Fostering High School Students' Motivation to Learn (2004); the Committee on Improved Measurement of High School Dropout and Completion Rates: Expert Guidance on Next Steps for Research and Policy, which issued the report, High School Droput, Graduation, and Completion Rates: Better Data, Better Measures, Better Decisions (2011): ; and the Committee on the Impact of Mobility and Change on the Lives of Young Children, Schools, and Neighborhoods, which issued the report, Student Mobility: Exploring the Impact of Frequent Moves on Achievement (2010). He also served on the national advisory committee for the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) project, Gubernatorial Action for Dropout Prevention and Recovery.

He served as a member of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Institute of Statistical Sciences/Education Statistics Services Institute Task Force on Graduation, Completion, and Dropout Indicators (2004).

He was a member on the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences panel that produced the Dropout Prevention Practice Guide (2008).

He received a Ph.D. in Education and a M.A. in Economics from Stanford University and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University.

In 2013 he was made a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association and received the Elizabeth G. Cohen Distinguished Career in Applied Sociology of Education Award, Sociology of Education SIG, American Educational Research Association. In 2016 he was elected to the National Academy of Education