Last year saw 16 fewer high school dropouts in the Los Banos Unified School District than 2009, but the system for keeping track of them has changed.
This year's numbers are the first to be tracked for four years by the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, or CALPADS.
San Luis High School, a continuation program in which students are required to be in school for half-days, had 12 dropouts in 2010, fewer than half of the 25 from 2009.
Principal John Lupini said he was glad to see such low numbers, but they may be deceiving. Because the use of CALPADS has just reached four years, Lupini said, the 2010 numbers are valid. However, there aren't any comparable numbers to which to compare them.
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"In the past, the dropout numbers have been hazy," Lupini said. "Nothing really jived."
Lupini said he has implemented incentives to bring attendance up, but "one year doesn't make a winning streak."
Superintendent Steve Tietjen said the nature of San Luis High further jumbles the numbers. Students transfer to San Luis High typically as sophomores and often transfer back to a traditional high school before graduation.
"It's hard to rely on numbers at continuation high schools no matter where they are because of the turnover rate of students," Tietjen said.
Los Banos High School's dropouts also fell to 17 in 2010 from 23 in 2009. Tietjen said the school benefited from having half as many students now that Pacheco High School is open, which increased pupil-to-adult contact.
Principal Dan Martin said he implemented "building assets" when he became principal five years ago. The assets are a series of steps to strengthen the relationships between teachers and students, and heighten their expectations.
Martin said his staff works to engage students with extracurricular activities. "The most important thing for kids is getting them active," Martin said.
The number of dropouts at Crossroads Alternative Education Center School doubled to six in 2010 from three in 2009. Crossroads is an independent study program, which means students attend a one-hour session either weekly or biweekly.
Tietjen said the graduation rates at Crossroads are good "and we require the same graduation requirements that our comprehensive high school does," which is not true for all continuation programs.
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at email@example.com.