New Data Show Dropout Rate Much Worse

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.

SDUSD Superintendent Terry Grier called that figure "unacceptable." "It's embarrassing and it's disappointing," Grier said. "We are not going to have a school district that has these kind of dropout numbers."

Grier, who relocated from North Carolina and has been on the job in San Diego since March, said he wants to cut the dropout rate at SDUSD in half within the next three years.

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.

"This is a crisis," he said during a conference call.

Statewide in 2006-07, 67.6 percent of public school students graduated, 24.2 percent dropped out and 8.2 percent completed or withdrew from school and are considered neither dropouts nor graduates, such as students who transferred to a private school, left the state or earned a General Education Degree, or GED, according to the CDE.

The report is the first to use students' Statewide Student Identifiers, or SSIDs, to provide more accurate data on graduation rates, he said.

"For too long, we had to rely on complicated formulas to make educated guesses about how many students were graduating and how many were leaving school without a diploma," O'Connell said.

By using student-level data, "we will have a much clearer picture of why students drop out," he said. "This is data-rich information that will be a powerful tool to better target resources, assistance and interventions to keep students in school and on track."

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.

A law passed in 2002 makes it a requirement for students to be assigned SSIDs. The system allows officials to track all California students through 12th grade using a unique but not personally identifiable code.

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