A charter school in Imperial Beach focused on using technology to connect disengaged kids with their education has the highest dropout rate of any school in California, according to a recent study by the California Dropout Research Project. But the data suggest more than meets the eye.

SIATech, one in a national chain of charter schools, is listed with a baffling 165.2 percent dropout rate, a figure calculated using California Department of Education data. According to the study, 911 students enrolled, and 1,505 dropped out.

In a news release, researchers explained that nine California schools have dropout rates greater than 100 percent because, while enrollment is counted at the beginning of the year, dropouts are counted all year. That means that a student who enrolls midyear in a school then drops out isn’t counted for enrollment, but is considered a dropout.

The implication seems to be that SIATech has a high number of students who transfer into the school midyear, then quit. Given the school’s mission of engaging disconnected kids, that phenomenon isn’t a huge shock — but isn’t heartening, either. I’m waiting on a phone call from SIATech to discuss the data further.

Overall, the report notes that just 25 schools — 1 percent of high schools — account for 21 percent of California dropouts. The list is dominated by charter and alternative schools, which account for a disproportionate number of dropouts statewide, researchers wrote.

Although located in Imperial Beach, the school gets its authorization from the Vista Unified School District.


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