Second research report validates San Diego Unified’s plan to increase graduation rates

Posted: Thursday, March 17th 2016

The San Diego Education Research Alliance (SanDERA) today became the second local research organization to publish a detailed look at August 2015 graduation data from the San Diego Unified School District. Last October, Alliance San Diego published a similar exploration of the district’s efforts to increase graduation rates and put in place more rigorous graduation standards. Both reports concluded the strategies put in place by San Diego Unified to increase graduations are working.

As San Diego UT reporter Maureen Magee first reported in her November 14, 2015 piece, “SD students improve on new grad criteria; Tougher graduation standards go into effect for first time this year,” the San Diego Unified School District has put in place multiple strategies to help more students graduate with more meaningful diplomas, which the district defines as degrees awarded based on a student’s ability to pass more than a dozen courses needed to apply to a CSU or UC campus.

Among the strategies San Diego Unified is using to help more students graduate are:

  • Elimination of  “filler courses” that don’t count toward college
  • Allowing students to test out of the foreign-language requirement by passing an exam proving their skills in their native language
  • Expanding summer school for high school students

The SanDERA report released today singled out the district’s new online credit recovery courses that satisfy the a-g requirements, noting they could result in higher than predicted graduation rates.

“This is a district on a mission to raise graduation rates and improve academic standards,” said Professor Julian Betts. “The report we are releasing today shows that district students are indeed completing more college prep classes than in the past.”

Professor Betts continued, “Our most recent tabulation, based on August 2015 data, shows that as the class of 2016 was about to enter its senior year, about a quarter of students needed to accelerate their performance to graduate on time this June. But, the district has introduced new supports, including credit recovery courses, that could make a real difference for those students. That, plus an expansion in summer school rosters over the last few years, could tangibly increase graduation rates beyond our current predictions.”

Superintendent Cindy Marten thanked both SanDERA and Alliance San Diego for their valuable contributions to the district’s work on graduation rates. She noted the district has already implemented some of the suggestions from SanDERA in their report today, including an increased effort to identify at-risk students in middle school and increasing world language courses

“San Diego Unified schools are a national demonstration model on how districts can increase their graduation standards and their graduation rates simultaneously,” said Superintendent Marten. “Research partnerships with organizations like SanDERA are vital to helping other districts replicate our work nationwide.”

To read the SanDERA College Prep for All report, go to


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