For the first time since California launched a new student tracking system three years ago, Sonoma County has posted better high school graduation rates than the state average.
In Sonoma County, 79.2 percent of students who started high school in 2008-09 graduated with their class in 2012, compared with 78.5 percent statewide.
The numbers, released by the California Department of Education on Tuesday, show Sonoma County improved its graduation rate by 2.6 percentage points over the previous year. Latino students improved by 4.4 percentage points.
Despite those gains, an achievement gap remains between whites and ethnic and racial groups. In Sonoma County, 72.6 percent of Latino students graduated in four years, compared with 84.7 percent of whites. Statewide, 73.2 percent of Latino students earned a diploma in four years, compared with 86.4 percent of whites.
In Santa Rosa City Schools, Sonoma County's largest school district, 80.6 percent of students graduate in four years, but a sharp achievement gap exists between the graduation rates of whites and Latinos, who graduate at a rate of 87.5 percent and 72.3 percent, respectively.
It is the largest gap in Sonoma County.
"Certainly we still have more work to do," said first-year Superintendent Socorro Shiels.
"I think it's important and I think it really is one of the outcomes we can all agree on: that we want our students graduating from high school," she said.
"This isn't a senior high school teachers issue," she said. "This is a pre-K, traditional kinder through 12th grade, collective responsibility."
But state officials lauded the gains made across all subgroups as a victory, especially amid some of the deepest funding cuts to education in recent memory.