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Graduation Rates Soar At San Diego High Schools

— More students are graduating on time and fewer are dropping out at San Diego city high schools, according to data released today.

Aired 6/27/12 on KPBS News.

San Diego Unified continues to improve graduation rates and reduce the number of dropouts.

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San Diego State University offers degrees in up to 89 areas.

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Cohort Graduation and Dropout Rates for the Classes of 2010 and 2011 by Ethnicity

Cohort Graduation and Dropout Rates for the Classes of 2010 and 2011 by Ethnicity

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2011 Cohort Graduate Rate in California Urban Districs

2011 Cohort Graduate Rate in California Urban Districs

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The class of 2011 had an 83.7 percent graduation rate, up from 80.9 percent for the class before them. Just 5.9 percent of the students slated to complete high school in 2011 dropped out, down from 8.4 percent the year before.

San Diego has the second highest graduation rate out of California's nine largest urban school districts. Garden Grove is the only district to graduate a higher proportion of their 2011 seniors. Those students graduated at a rate of 85.1 percent.

Graduation rates for the district's African American, American Indian, Hispanic and Pacific Islander students rose more than than the district's overall rate, but still lag rates for white, Asian, Filipino and multiracial students.

About 75 percent of Hispanic students in the class of 2011 graduated, a rate 5 percentage points higher than Hispanics statewide. And 80 percent of African-American students graduated, outpacing the state average by 17 percentage points.

The district is significantly outpacing other large urban districts in reducing the number of students who drop out. San Francisco has the next lowest percentage of students who leave high school without getting a diploma - 10.4 percent.

This spring San Diego Unified became the first large urban school district to receive an annual statewide award for increasing attendance. The district attributed that success to closer tracking of individual student performance and attendance through an online system launched in 2009.

"It was a mindset change that had to occur," Superintendent Bill Kowba said at the time. "Everybody from the board and superintendent down to the individual teacher and counselor had to make it a top concern to have kids in seats."

He attributed the increase in graduation rates and reduction in dropouts over the same period to the individual student outreach made possible by the online tracking system.

Nellie Meyer, the district's deputy superintendent for academics, pointed to that tracking and volunteers who knock on doors in some cases to connect with students missing school as a few of the things making the difference.

“Without the principals, the counselors, the teachers, the nurses, the site staff who check in with students who are at risk everyday, these gains out not be possible," she said. "And students that are at risk for dropping out are monitored and cared for in a way that we see results of that we are not seeing across the state.”

The biggest reduction in dropout rates happened among African American, American Indian and white students.

Board of education President John Lee Evans said the reduction of drop out rates among African-American and Hispanic students in particular is the opposite of national trends.

"That means hundreds of our young adults are beating the odds and becoming high school graduates," he said.

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