In 2000, the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) created the “Blueprint for Student Success” to reform its schools and better educate its students. SDUSD is the eighth largest urban school district in the nation and has a high concentration of minorities and low-income students.
Prior to the plan, schools in the district struggled with low college enrollment, a high dropout rate, and a graduation rate of only 67 percent. The plan created immediate results for elementary schools, but results at the high school level took a little longer.
To address the unique challenges of its high schools, SDUSD converted three of the district’s largest and lowest-performing high schools into 14 smaller independent schools. Each uniquely themed school focused its efforts on integrating rigorous academic coursework with real-world experiences in order to better prepare students for college or job entry.
As a result, SDUSD’s graduation and attendance rates have improved and the district has increased English proficiency among students who do not speak English as their primary language. Leaders of the program credit its success to more personalized attention for students and the ability to tailor the curriculum to students’ needs.