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EHS Graduation Rates Rising
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In a state with a 21.7 percent dropout rate and in a county exhibiting over 26 percent, Escalon Unified School District displays only a 5.3 percent rate for its students dropping out before graduation. The district reduced its rate from 8.5 percent the previous year.

"Escalon has taken graduation rates very seriously," said EUSD Superintendent Ron Costa. "Things are in place to ensure for state and district qualifications to be met by our students."

Costa credits the district practice of following children's progress from kindergarten through 12th grade.

"This allows for the district to work with and track a student for 13 years," he said.

Assistant Superintendent Joel Johannsen cited the district's strong support it receives from parents, district intervention programs, and counselors compared to other districts within San Joaquin County.

Johannsen said the ratio of district counselors to students allows the counselors to meet with each student at least once a year and more often if necessary.

"The counselors know the kids on a personal basis," said Johannsen. "It's a sense of that personal touch so our kids don't get lost in the shuffle."

Costa said the dropout rate has two components; students who reach 18 and drop out without enough credits or passing the exit exam, or those that drop out before completing their senior year of high school.

"Programs are set up to ensure students meet credits and pass the exit exam," said Costa. "The district has a frequency of testing to prepare students for the California Exit Exam for a higher probability of passing."

For the hard to motivate and those that leave early, Escalon has programs to keep the students wanting to come to school. Costa cited curriculums the district offers in agriculture, drafting, and athletics to keep students' interests.

"Programs are set up to hook kids and keep them into wanting to come to school," he said.

In addition to varied curriculums, four years ago the district started the "Be the Change" program to break down barriers and make students more comfortable with coming to school. The program enlists the staff and parents to create a safe environment and to be supportive of the students in an educational environment.

"I want them (students) to know we have adults who care," said Costa.

Of the larger school districts within San Joaquin County, Stockton Unified had a 34.8 percent dropout rate, up 17.7 percent from the previous year. Lodi Unified had a 24 percent rate, Tracy Unified had an 18.7 percent rate, and Manteca Unified had a 9.4 percent dropout percentage. All except Manteca had risen from the previous year and Manteca's was only a one-percentage point decrease.

The state dropout rate of 21.7 percent rose from its previous level of 18.9 percent.

The dropout rate calculations posted by the California Department of Education compare the counts of dropouts over the entire school year. The four-year derived dropout rate is an estimate of the percent of students who would drop out in a four-year period based on data collected for a single year.

California's 3.8 million high school dropouts cost state taxpayers more than $1 billion in Medicaid payments and another almost $1 billion in lost tax revenue due to the lack of a quality education, according to a new study by the Foundation for Educational Choice.

The study also found that California's high school dropouts earn $14,226 less a year than those who graduate high school, totaling about $412,000 over each of their lifetimes. Dropouts have higher rates of incarceration, addiction and receiving government assistance. Almost half are enrolled in Medicaid, according to the study.