BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 14: Students throw their mortarboards in the air during their graduation photograph at the University of Birmingham degree congregations on July 14, 2009 in Birmingham, England. Over 5000 graduates will be donning their robes this week to collect their degrees from The University of Birmingham. A recent survey suggested that there are 48 graduates competing for every job. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
For the second consecutive year, the San Diego Unified School District has the lowest high school dropout rate and the second highest graduation rate among California’s largest districts, according to new statistics from the California Department of Education.
The dropout rate fell from 6.2 percent in 2012 to 5.2 percent in 2013. During the same period, SDUSD seniors graduated at a rate of 87.8 percent in 2013, compared to 86.9 percent the year before.
The only district that had a higher graduation rate was Garden Grove in Orange County with 89 percent.
Reducing the dropout rate has been a top priority for the school district since 2007, according to SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten.
“We attribute this tremendous success to the supports that have been put in place to help our high school seniors make it in the dropout prevention program and by offering a relevant, broad and challenging curriculum,” said Marten.
Over the past four years, the district’s graduation rates have risen more than 5 percentage points.
However, there is still a gap in the rates between ethnic groups, though SDUSD officials said that gap is tightening.
Among the Class of 2013’s largest groups, Filipino students graduated at a rate of 96.9 percent; White students, 94.1 percent; Asian students, 92.9 percent; Pacific Islander students, 85.7 percent; African American students, 82.8 percent; Hispanic or Latino students, 81.6 percent; and American Indian or Alaska Native, 73.7 percent.
As for the SDUSD dropout rates, the percentages are as follows: Hispanic or Latino students, 8.2; Pacific Islander, 7.1; African American, 6.7; American Indian or Alaska Native, 5.3; Asian, 3.3; White, 2.4; and Filipino, 1.0.
Closing that achievement gap is one area in which the district can improve, according to the superintendent.
“We are looking at the achievement gap numbers to make sure that we’re paying attention to where there’s some focus need in terms of subgroups,” said Marten.
If the district’s dropout rates and graduation rates don’t add up to 100 percent, they’re not supposed to, said Ron Rode, SDUSD’s executive director for the Office of Accountability.
When a student enters a particular cohort but needs an extra year or two to get a high school diploma, they are not counted in the graduates or dropouts.
Statewide, districts had an average high school graduation rate of 80.2 percent in 2013, while the dropout rate was 11.6 percent.
According to a report titled “Building a Grad Nation," California is key to reaching the nation’s goal of a 90-percent graduation rate.
The state has the highest poverty rate, a median household income 20 percent higher than the country’s and a population that is 61 percent non-Anglo. Despite budget cuts and demographic changes, the report said California has been making progress, though there’s still room for improvement.