From STAFF REPORTS
Published: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 | 3:37 PM
*PUSD Preliminary Data
The number of students who left high school without a diploma in the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) has dropped by more than 50 percent since 2007-08, according to data that the district recently submitted to the California Department of Education. PUSD’s dropout rate declined sharply from 24.5 percent in 2007-08 to 11.7 percent in 2009-10, the most recent data available. Although the preliminary data does not include statistics for charter schools in PUSD, these rates will be included as part of the District’s report in the state’s release next week.
Officials attribute the reduction to upgraded data collection systems, a focus on improved school attendance and truancy prevention, the recovery of student dropouts, an expanded variety of high quality alternative education programs, and a community partnership focused on reducing dropouts.
“Despite significant budget cuts in the last few years, our schools have helped more students graduate from high school and enter the workforce as productive members of our community,” said Superintendent Edwin Diaz. “Although we’ve met our goal of cutting the dropout rate by 50 percent well before our three year target, our work to ensure that all PUSD students graduate prepared for success in college and careers continues. Many others who have partnered with our staff deserve credit, including the League of Women Voters, City Conversations, Learning Works, Pasadena City College, the City of Pasadena, law enforcement, and others. This proves that when we work in partnership, we can accomplish extraordinary results for students.”
The Board of Education and Superintendent Diaz set a goal of cutting the dropout rate in half over a three year period, using the district’s four-year calculated rate of 24.5 percent from 2007-08 as a baseline. A goal of 12.25 percent was set for the graduating class of 2010-11. Through a focus on rigorous academics from preschool to 12th grade, professional development, the Excellent Middle Schools reforms, College and Career Pathways, and high-quality alternative education programs, PUSD has met and surpassed its goal a year ahead of schedule.
To help reach this benchmark, a task force of educators and civic and community leaders convened in 2010 to develop recommendations aimed at reducing the dropout rate and increasing graduation rates district-wide. The task force recommended strategies in the areas of dropout prevention, intervention and recovery that included partnering with community-based organizations and others to re-engage students in their education.
PUSD was one of only 29 California school districts to receive a federal High School Graduation Initiative grant of $2.4 million over three years to support dropout prevention and increase graduation rates. Counselors assigned to middle schools target students who demonstrate early indicators of dropping out such as problems with attendance, academic performance, and behavior.
To ensure sustainability of the improvements once the grant expires, the district has focused on developing policies, building an infrastructure, and training school administrators and school office personnel to trigger appropriate interventions early.
According to a 2009 report from the California Dropout Research Project of the University of California at Santa Barbara, the economic impact of the 329 middle and high school students in the City of Pasadena who dropped out of school in 2006-07 is estimated at more than $56.4 million over their lifetimes.