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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

San Diego pushes weak students to charters

San Diego Unified achieved an amazing 91 percent graduation rate in 2016.

Photo: John Gataldo/San Diego Union-Tribune

How did they do it? In addition to dropping some requirements, reports Mario Koran in the Voice of San Diego, district principals and teachers pushed low achievers to charter schools.

At least 919 students who started in the class of ’16 transferred to charters. They had a 1.75 grade-point average, a C- or D+. The district requires graduate to have a GPA of 2.0 or higher.

Most went to Charter School of San Diego, an alternative school that offers online credit-recovery classes.

In March, students at one charter school told Voice of San Diego they left the district after staff members at their San Diego Unified schools encouraged them to leave because they fell behind in credits or exhibited behavioral problems. Soon after the story published, the district created an entire webpage devoted to refuting VOSD’s graduation rate reporting. On the site, the district emphatically denied its staff members encouraged any students to leave. . . . But San Diego Unified school board president Richard Barrera now says that Superintendent Cindy Marten discovered years ago that staff members at some schools were encouraging students to transfer to charter schools.

“All principals have done it,” said Liz Larkin, who recently retired as principal of East Village High School, a district high school. “I did it. 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.”

“The district has spent at least $2 million over the past three years to expand its online courses,” reports Koran. “Those online courses have sparked major concerns, however, among teachers and students – namely, that the courses are ridiculously easy to cheat.”

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