The San Diego Unified School District landed an impressive 91 percent graduation rate in 2016. It’s the highest grad rate on record, and the district achieved it even as it beefed up graduation standards.

The district has refuted much of VOSD’s reporting on how it achieved its grad rate, and even created an entire webpage vehemently denying that the lowest-performing students were pushed to charters. But now district officials have reversed course and admit that it has been happening.

Voice of San Diego’s Mario Koran reports that new district records released through a Public Records Act request show students who left the district for charters had an average GPA of 1.75, bolstering the case that “charter schools acted as an escape hatch” for San Diego Unified students who weren’t on track to graduate. Once a student leaves for a charter school, he or she no longer counts towards the district’s graduation rate.

San Diego Unified school board president Richard Barrera told Koran via email that “Superintendent Cindy Marten discovered years ago that staff members at some schools were encouraging students to transfer to charter schools.”

But he also said it’s not a new pattern and that it doesn’t explain the record high graduation rate for the class of 2016. Meanwhile, a retired district high school said that all district principals have likely told struggling students to try charter schools.

“If students fall behind to the point where no matter what you do they still wouldn’t graduate, you have to give them some kind of option,” said Liz Larkin, who recently retired as principal of East Village High School.

Local Homeless Numbers Could Be Much Higher

A new study says San Diego has likely seriously undercounted its homeless population.

Led by University of New Hampshire statistician Chris Glynn and paid for by the online real estate company Zillow, the study shows that “the number of people living on the streets in San Diego County could be 50 percent higher than thought,” reports the Union-Tribune.

The number is important because it helps determine the region’s share of federal funding for homeless programs.

Right now, the number comes from the so-called point-in-time count. Once a year, the San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless rallies more than a thousand volunteers who tally the number of homeless people in the county by physically counting the people they encounter, then running their numbers through a formula to get a total.

Zillow’s study factored in the relationship of housing costs to homelessness and and also incorporated findings from a 2008 study that found a point-in-time count in New York missed 41 percent of unsheltered people.

VOSD’s covered how the point-in-time count often misses large numbers of homeless women and children who tend to favor couch-surfing or motel rooms to sleeping on the street.

Qualcomm Stadium’s a Money Pit, But the Details Are Vague

As the Chargers made the case for a new stadium in San Diego, stories abounded about how much money the city sinks into Qualcomm Stadium every year.

The Union-Tribune’s Roger Showley decided to dig into the city funds spent to keep the old stadium operating until it’s scheduled to be shuttered in 16 months.

Through Public Records Act requests, interviews and other materials, Showley found some interesting tidbits, like the lack of layoffs following the Chargers’ departure to Los Angeles. He also found that one contractor will charge $7,264 to trap and remove 130 pigeons, and another $3 million in contracting costs for which neither public documents nor the city’s communication department could name the recipient.

A Border Wall History Lesson

Crossing illegally from Tijuana to San Diego used to be pretty darn easy. The reality of the U.S.-Mexico border is much different today, despite national rhetoric about illegal immigration continuing unabated.

The Union-Tribune explains how the border once was, how it is now and what lessons could be applied to the new border wall President Donald Trump plans to build.

VOSD’s also looked at the reality of the border wall and found that for nearly every measure taken to fortify it, people who really want to cross have always been able to come up with creative ways to get around it.

Weekend News Roundup

• A developer bought two failing golf courses and wants to close them to build housing developments. Here’s how that plan has worked out for him so far. (Union-Tribune)

 San Diego State football players are learning the hard way that chicken pox vaccinations are important. (SportingNews)

Local biotech giant Illumina can’t stop growing. (Union-Tribune)

Kinsee Morlan was formerly the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture...

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