High school dropout rates fell dramatically in San Diego Unified in the 2007-2008 school year, plummeting from 17.8 percent to 9.3 percent — one of the lowest dropout rates among large urban school districts statewide, according to data released today.

Its rate bested that of the county (17.3 percent), the state (20.1 percent), and school districts that it is frequently compared to, such as Los Angeles (34.9 percent) and Long Beach (16.2 percent.) Karen Bachofer, who oversees data in San Diego Unified, said the only large urban district with a lower dropout rate for that year was Garden Grove, which had a dropout rate of 9.1 percent.

“It was a real push to make sure that we had accurate data in the system,” Bachofer said. “We also made a concerted effort to find all of our students. We had a bank of people working at the school district and called every last contact number for every student we could find.”

While cutting the dropout rate has been a major goal for Superintendent Terry Grier, who began work in late March 2008, the drop occurred before many of his signature plans were unrolled, such as a virtual high school and Project Recovery, which sent staffers from the central offices out to knock on doors to find missing students. If the new initiatives work, they could push that rate even lower.

“We expect it’ll get better,” Bachofer said.

Statewide, the dropout rate fell slightly this year compared to last year. This is the second year that California school districts have used a more accurate system that tracks individual students to calculate dropout rates. That allows schools to discount students who transferred to other schools, which had muddled dropout rates in the past. While the method is more accurate than in the past, the numbers are still preliminary and could be adjusted as districts double check the data.

I’ll post some more dropout tidbits as I get through more of the data. Feel free to help me dig and point out interesting things! You can run your own searches here.


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