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Mario Koran

Mario asks questions and writes stories about San Diego schools. Reach him directly at 619.325.0531, or by email: mario@vosd.org.

Last week, we got a firsthand look at the many ways in which students at East Village High School cheat on the district’s online credit recovery courses. A San Diego Unified spokesman dismissed claims that cheating occurs were merely “anecdotal.” Since then, more teachers and students have come forward with stories that suggest the problem is pervasive.

A group of well-resourced parents at Gage Elementary, and even the school board member who represents them, say they’ve hit a brick wall when it comes to getting answers from San Diego Unified about school budget cuts. If they can’t get basic info, one parent said, “What chance does the rest of this district have?”

On a recent visit to an online credit recovery course at a San Diego Unified high school, students — and even teachers — showed us just how easy it is to game the assignments, including Googling the answers in real time, muting lectures and typing gobbledygook in as responses and receiving credit.

A closer look at data from individual high schools reveals a trend that might seem contradictory at first glance: Schools whose graduation rates are rising are simultaneously losing a significant number of students to charter schools and schools in other parts of town.

New records obtained by Voice of San Diego quantify for the first time how many struggling students in the class of 2016 left district high schools and how many of them were not on track to graduate. The records also reveal which schools students left. Top among them were high schools in poorer areas like Lincoln High and Morse High.

In March, a Superior Court judge ruled in VOSD’s favor that San Diego Unified had improperly withheld emails between district staff, school board members and Superintendent Cindy Marten related to the removal of the former principal for the School of Creative and Performing Arts.

Many officials have warned that aging schools are more likely to be at risk of lead exposure. But age alone isn’t a solid indicator. We’ve mapped district schools by age, as well as by the condition of campus facilities. Buildings in bad condition are more likely to have plumbing issues.

The state confirmed Tuesday that 91 percent of San Diego Unified’s class of 2016 graduated. But that number doesn’t show all the factors that came together to make the rate possible – whether it was allowing certain students to test out of requirements or losing low-performing students to charter schools.

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