OAKLAND -- A new report from the state Department of Education paints a grim picture of Oakland's public high schools: Four out of every 10 students drop out, according to estimates released Tuesday.

The district's 40 percent dropout rate is based on data collected during the 2008-09 school year. In that year alone, the state reported 1,368 of the city's public high school students quit the system -- about 11 percent of the students enrolled at the beginning of the year.

"This is extremely distressing news," said Troy Flint, a spokesman for the Oakland school district.

State dropout estimates for Oakland's public schools, which include independently run charters, have fluctuated dramatically in recent years -- from 36 percent to 28 percent to 40 percent. Dublin's dropout rate was erroneously reported as 99.9 percent, calling into question the reliability of the state's data.

State officials said discrepancies could be the result of a new data reporting system used this year, called the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, or CALPADS. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed funding for CALPADS, which will hurt the system's accuracy, said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell.

But Oakland school officials say they believe the 40 percent figure may be more accurate than last year's lower estimate. Internal reports found a significant increase in the number of students who left the system in 2008-09, compared to 2007-08, Flint said.

"We have to dramatically reduce this dropout rate and do it quickly," Flint said.

Flint said district staff members were designing a plan to review the academic preparation and interests of all of its ninth-grade students and to place them accordingly into career academies or internships -- as well as in the right courses. Some students realize as late as 11th grade that they are not on track to graduate, he said.

Oakland has the highest dropout rate in Alameda County, followed by Berkeley at 27 percent, Emeryville at 25 percent and Hayward at 21 percent.

These dropout rates don't include students who leave the system before enrolling in high school. Students who leave their high schools and continue in alternative programs or who don't pass the high school exit exam also are not counted as dropouts by this system.

Follow Katy Murphy at Twitter.com/katymurphy.

at A glance

2008-09 four-year estimated dropout rates for select East Bay school districts
County/ % who
school district drop out
Contra Costa County 15.9
Acalanes Union High 3.3
Antioch 25.7
Martinez 7.6
Mt. Diablo 22.2
Pittsburg 30.7
San Ramon Valley 3.7
West Contra Costa 22.2

Alameda County* 26.7
Alameda Unified: 16.6
Berkeley 26.9
Dublin** 99.9
Emeryville 25.1
Fremont 9.1
Hayward 20.6
Livermore Valley 14
Oakland 40
Piedmont 0.9
Pleasanton 3.6
San Leandro 19.2
*Skewed by Dublin figure
**Dublin says there is an error

Source: California state Department of Education
To view or download state, county, district, and school-level dropout data, go to: http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest.

For more information about Contra Costa district results, visit the On Assignment blog at IBABuzz.com/onassignment.
The Education Report blog has Alameda district details at IBABuzz.com/education.