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.