Does Riverside need Catholic education? The answer is YES. Riverside needs and DESERVES quality Catholic education. Catholic education has a national reputation of success across many measures. Notre Dame High School is Riverside’s Catholic school and has been contributing to the community since 1956. As is often the case, the City of Riverside does an outstanding job of celebrating the diversity of our higher educational institutions, both public and private, religious and secular. UCR, part of the renown UC system, Cal Baptist which is bursting at the seems with growth, the highly respected La Sierra University with its service learning model, not to mention Riverside City College, part of the nationally recognized Riverside Community College District, are all part of the higher educational landscape that is celebrated, and rightly so. But not as celebrated is the outstanding and diverse K-12 learning environment in Riverside and the many choices available to families, public and private, religious and secular. Notre Dame and her partner schools contribute to a diverse K-12 educational landscape that complement and round out the educational excellence in Riverside. We can do more to celebrate the diversity of the K-12 educational landscape in Riverside and recognize the significant and relevant contributions of Catholic education in our great City.
The Superintendent of Riverside County Officer of Education Dr. Judith White recently highlighted the success of K-12 schools throughout the county of Riverside at her State of the Schools event. While there were many successes to celebrate, there remain serious challenges facing the region. In the county of Riverside, 86% of students who enter the public school system in the ninth grade graduate from high school. This number is an improvement and is moving in the right direction. But this means nearly 5000 students do not graduate high school in this region each year. Furthermore, college readiness, as indicated by the number of graduates who completed the requisite number of College Board A-G courses, is below 40%. This means that of those who graduate, less than half are considered college ready.
At Notre Dame, we are proud of our long history of success. Notre Dame has a 100% graduation rate, and has had for as long as I can remember. Let's call it 99%, because I'm sure we've had instances, but I can't remember when. And what about our college acceptance rate? Notre Dame has a 95% acceptance rate to four-year colleges. That's not 95% combined acceptance to junior college and four-year college, but 95% acceptance to four-year colleges alone. On top of that, our graduating seniors receive more than $5 million dollars of scholarship offers to attend these same colleges.
Also worth mentioning is Notre Dame' success rates with the Advanced Placement (AP) exams. The College Board recently honored Notre Dame and the Diocese of San Bernardino with AP Honor Roll in recognition of districts across the United States and Canada for increasing access to AP course work while maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning a 3 or higher on AP exams. The College Board recognized 547 districts. The Diocese of San Bernardino, of which Notre Dame is a part, was the only Catholic or private system among the 35 districts in the State of California to receive this recognition. The award is based on a four-year review of course offerings and achievement rates to underserved populations, especially Hispanic and Native American students and those of African descent. Other districts awarded within the Diocese of San Bernardino, which included both San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, are Chino Valley USD, Corona-Norco USD, Hesperia USD, and San Jacinto USD.
I don't mention the challenges of our public school districts to suggest that they are not worthy of our praise or support. Quite the contrary. We in the Catholic school system recognize that most students will attend public schools and that Riverside has good public schools, staffed with quality teachers and administrators who are hardworking professionals with strong intentions. We also recognize that our public schools have different challenges from Catholic schools. I only share our facts to illustrate that Catholic schools are part of the K-12 landscape in Riverside, that we are contributing in very positive ways, and that our successes should be celebrated as wins for the City of Riverside, alongside the wins of our public school colleagues.
Catholic education has a proud history of service to its communities and Notre Dame is proud to be a part of the Riverside Catholic School system, made up St. Catherine’s, St. Thomas, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and our oldest school, St. Francis De Sales, who are celebrating 100 years of service to Riverside. Also part of the Riverside cluster are St. Edward in Corona, St. James in Perris, and St. Hyacinth in San Jacinto. We wish to continue to serve the Riverside community in ever increasing ways, to be part of a legacy that Mayor Rusty Bailey has challenged us to create, and to work toward our shared vision of educational excellence in Riverside and the region. Much more remains to be done and we value the increased support of the community as we continue our efforts to celebrate Catholic school contributions to a diverse K-12 educational landscape.