By Rose Marie Scott-Blair
The graduation rate at the Ramona Unified School District in the 2009-10 school year was 89.4 percent, which is considerably higher than the countywide rate of 73.8 and the statewide rate of 74.4 percent.
And the Ramona district’s dropout rate for the 2009-10 school year was 7.7 percent, lower than the county rate of 16 percent and the state rate of 18.2 percent, according to a newly released report from the California Department of Education. The figures do not total 100 percent because of students who are still enrolled in school, so they are neither graduates nor dropouts, said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.
Within the Ramona district, Ramona High had a 89.4 percent graduation rate and a 5.9 dropout rate with 443 students. The Future Bound independent study program had rates of 64.5 percent and 22.6 percent with 31 students, and the Ramona Community School had a 100 percent graduation rate with 26 students.
Countywide, the Poway Unified School District had the best figures with a 95 percent graduation rate and a 2.5 percent dropout rate with 2,671 students, and the worst was Warner Unified at 56 and 24 percent, but it had an enrollment of only 25 students. Second from the bottom was the Mountain Empire Unified School District at 70.8 and 22.1 percent, with 154 students.
The Julian High School District had a graduation rate of 84 percent and a dropout rate of 8 percent, but these figures do not include data from the district’s Eagles Peak Charter School, which was closed at the end of the 2009-10 school year.
Overall, the figures show an increase in graduation rates and a decrease in dropout rates, Torlakson’s office said. But it is not possible to compare the 2009-10 statistics with previous years because they were collected with a new system that continues to track students who transfer to another district, as long as they remain in the state. The previous system did not account for transfers and was criticized for overestimating graduation rates.
With the new data system now in place, the state now has a goal of achieving a 90 percent graduation rate by 2019, Torlakson said. And it will also be used “to shine a light on the middle school dropout problem,” he said.
“Our research shows that chronic absence from school, even as early as kindergarten, is a strong indicator of whether a child will drop out of school later,” Torlakson said. “Clearly, we need to invest more in programs designed to keep elementary and middle school students in school.”
The new data also shows that “a significant gap still persists between Hispanic and African American students and their peers,” Torlakson said. “It is encouraging that about 4,700 more Hispanics graduated in 2010 in the state, by far the largest increase by any other subgroup of students,” but they still have a graduation rate of only 67.7 percent.
“Most troubling are the 59 percent graduation rate among African American students and the 56.3 percent rate among English learners,” said Torlakson.
In the Ramona district, a breakdown by race shows a graduation rate for 2009-10 of 79 percent for 162 Hispanic students, a 90.3 rate for 370 white students and a 66.7 rate for fewer than 10 African American students.