The San Diego Unified School District had the lowest dropout rate and the second-highest graduation rate among California’s nine largest urban districts in the last academic year, according to a state report released Monday.

The California Department of Education‘s annual report on graduation and dropout rates showed that San Diego Unified’s dropout rate was 5.2 percent last year, down from 6.1 in 2012. The rate is based on the number of students who began ninth grade together in 2009.

Eugene Brucker Education Center is headquarters of the San Diego Unified School District. Photo courtesy sandi.net

Sacramento City Unified School District had the state’s second-lowest dropout rate, at 5.9 percent, while Oakland Unified had the worst at 21.6 percent, according to San Diego Unified officials.

San Diego schools came in second in graduation rates among the state’s large urban districts, according to the report. District officials said 87.8 of the 7,282 students who began high school together graduated in 2013.

Only the Garden Grove Unified School District had a better rate, graduating 89 percent.

“I want to salute our hard-working students for realizing that staying in school is one of the most important decisions that they can make,” said Board of Education President Kevin Beiser. “Creating an environment where our students are challenged and can thrive is one of our goals in Vision 2020.”

Statewide, the graduation rate climbed for the fourth year in a row, according to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

A total of 80.2 percent of the state’s students who started high school in 2009-10 graduated with their class in 2013, a 1.3 percent increase than the previous year’s class.

“For the first time in our state’s history, more than 80 percent of our students are graduating — a clear sign of their hard work and the support they receive from their teachers, families and communities,” Torlakson said. “We are continuing toward our goal of graduating 100 percent of our students with the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed.”

The report also showed a statewide decrease in the dropout rate. Of the students who started high school in 2009-10, 11.6 percent dropped out, a 1.5 percent dip from the previous year.

San Diego Unified has made reducing the dropout rate a top priority since 2007.

“This is a tremendous success and a great celebration for San Diego Unified. I am especially proud of our students,” said Superintendent Cindy Marten. “We are well on our way to our Vision 2020 goal of having a quality school in every neighborhood.”

The superintendent listed four programs that have helped prevent dropouts, and said she hopes to expand them in the future. The programs are the Check and Connect pilot program, graduation coaches at many high schools, the Linked Learning Initiative schools, and the district-wide College Career and Technical Education program.

— City News Service contributed to this report

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