New Data Show Dropout Rate Much Worse

KGTV (San Diego), July 16, 2008

Nearly a quarter of San Diego public high school students dropped out in the 2006-07 school year, according to figures released Wednesday by the California Department of Education.

According to the CDE’s report, 22.8 percent of ninth- through 12th-grade students within the San Diego Unified School District dropped out during the 2006-07 academic year.

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Throughout California, 24.2 percent of public school students dropped out in 2006-07, according to the CDE.

“Twenty-four percent of students dropping out is not good news,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said. “In fact, any student dropping out of school is one too many, and the data reveal(s) a disturbingly high dropout rate for Latinos and African Americans.”

According to O’Connell, the dropout rate among African Americans is 41.6 percent statewide, and 30.3 percent for Latinos.

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Last year’s estimate placed the dropout rate at 13 percent. O’Connell said it would be a “mistake” to compare the two figures, however, because they were based on different information.

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However, the state’s average of a 24.2 percent dropout rate pales in comparison to the 54.5 percent within the Victor Valley Union High School District—the district is home to the worst dropout rates in the county.

District officials place the blame on a number of things including student frustration in meeting class requirements, according to Duneen DeBruhl, VVUHSD assistant superintendent of educational services.

“If students didn’t feel they’d have enough credits to graduate with the state required exit exam, they will feel more inclined to drop out,” said DeBruhl. “We’ve also had an increase of special needs students and students learning English as a second language.”

The district far exceeds the state and county average in high school dropouts and holds the highest dropout rate within the Victor Valley.

Apple Valley Unified is second highest at 28.9, one percentage point lower than the county average.

“Families I encounter that come to the High Desert have a weak support system and the family’s educational background is sometimes very weak as well,” said Chico Garza, special assistant to San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools. “Youths I run into who are thinking about dropping out sometimes don’t so much want to get out of school, but sometimes get out of their home. If they drop out and are frustrated on top of that, it can lead them to fall into gangs and get trapped in minimum wage jobs.”

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The data was compiled from a newly implemented tracking system that issues each student an identifier number. The number enables officials to monitor each student as he or she progresses through school, allowing for a more accurate accounting.

The new data revealed high dropout rates for minority students: 41.3 percent of black students, 31.3 percent of Native Americans, 30.3 percent of Hispanics, and 27.9 percent of Pacific Islanders. White students had a 15.2 percent dropout rate, while Asians had a 10.2 percent rate.

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The state is downplaying the dropout rate by overestimating student withdrawals—those who transfer, move or earn GEDs normally make up a tiny fraction of enrollment, he said.

The state is also not including middle-school dropouts, which Bonsteel put at 4 percent, to come up with a total dropout rate of 37 percent.

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