By Marsha Sutton
Senior Education Writer
Using a new tracking and reporting system, the California Department of Education released graduation and dropout rates this month for the class of 2009-2010 that show that the San Dieguito Union High School District had a graduation rate of 94.4 percent, compared to a statewide rate of 74.4 percent. The dropout rate was 3.1 percent for the district and 18.2 percent for the state.
The difference between the graduation and dropout rates — 2.5 percent for San Dieguito and 7.4 percent for the state — represents students removed from the cohort for a number of reasons. They may have transferred to a private school, enrolled in a school out of the district, transferred to an institution or health facility, are being home-schooled, moved out of the state or country, or died.
Students remained in the cohort if they dropped out during that four-year period, completed 12th grade and exited the system without graduating, or took longer than four years to graduate.
The cohort is the group of ninth- through 12th-grade students that could potentially graduate during a four-year period, in this case 2006 to 2010. This cohort includes students who entered grades 9, 10, 11 or 12 in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, respectively.
The general formula used to derive the data, according to the CDE, is the number of cohort members who earned a high school diploma by the end of the 2009-2010 school year, divided by: the number of first-time ninth-graders in the fall of 2006, plus students who transferred in, minus students who were removed from the cohort after transferring to different schools, moving away or dying.
Different calculation factors employed this year means that the data cannot be compared to previous years, but this year’s numbers will serve as a baseline for future data, the CDE said.
For the first time, students were tracked by school districts upon entering ninth grade in 2006, so the numbers just released are considered more accurate than systems used in the past, said Rick Schmitt, SDUHSD’s associate superintendent of educational services.
Before this, he said, the district used a derived rate extrapolated from a one-year estimate based on a single year of data. This new model, with the four-year cohort rate, is a more legitimate reflection of actual graduation and dropout rates, he said.
Schmitt said school districts submitted numbers to the state this year through a self-reporting system. “What the state has is what we gave them,” he said. “They just take the data and put it up.”
The system the state had planned to use to collect data and organize graduation and dropout information was abandoned when it became a victim of California’s budget crisis.
“They don’t have the means to collect it any more,” Schmitt said. “It’s all through our own self-reporting.”
Schmitt said all school districts reported their own data to the Calif. Dept. of Education, and the CDE published what was provided, making the integrity of each school district’s data dependent upon the veracity of individual district procedures.
Schmitt said the graduation and dropout numbers the CDE posted for San Dieguito were crunched locally and are verified and accurate. “We take our own attendance, and we do our own student information systems,” he said. “Our numbers are really honest.” But he could not confirm with certainty the accuracy of the data posted for other school districts.
Of the 2,123 students in the San Dieguito cohort, the three largest subgroups – whites (numbering 1,553), Asians (266) and Latinos (246) – have disparity in graduation rates, highlighting a persistent achievement gap that plagues schools throughout the state.
Whites in San Dieguito had a graduation rate of 95.6 percent and a dropout rate of 2.1 percent. Asians had a graduation rate of 98.5 percent and a dropout rate of 1.1 percent. Latinos had a graduation rate of 83.3 percent and a dropout rate of 10.6 percent.
Although San Dieguito’s Latino graduation rate was 15.6 percent higher than the statewide number (67.7 percent), the gap is evident. Closing that gap remains a priority for the district, officials say.
Both high schools in the southern half of the district topped the district average. Graduation and dropout rates for Torrey Pines High School were 96.8 and 1.8, and for Canyon Crest Academy were 98.7 and 0.7. All of the 28 Latino students at CCA graduated, while 90.6 percent of the 53 Latino students at Torrey Pines graduated.