Hesperia Unified School District high school students drop out less often than the average California or San Bernardino County high school student.

HUSD students also tend to stay in school more often than their peers in the Apple Valley Unified School District or the Victor Valley Union High School District.

The results come from a study released by the California Department of Education this week. The report is based on a new, more accurate means of tracking California's students. The results -- that nearly 1 in 4 of California's 6.3 million students will drop out of school -- are almost double previous estimates.

The numbers are lower in Hesperia, which had a 22.1 dropout rate and 389 dropouts in the 2006-2007 school year.

In comparison, 29.9 percent of students across San Bernardino County dropped out by their senior year, for a total of 7,082 students in the 2006-2007 school year. The state average was 24.2 percent.

"Part of the reason we don't have the dropouts are all the extra programs we have," said HUSD school board member Lee Rogers, citing the district's continuation schools, night school, independent study and other programs intended to help students finish their education.

"We saw this coming," said school board president Robert Kirk. "You can see the push we've put on our alt-ed program."

Hesperia's rate puts it squarely in the middle of the pack of Victor Valley school districts, which range from a high of 54.5 percent in Victor Valley Union, followed by 28.9 percent at Apple Valley Unified, and down to 14.5 percent in Lucerne Valley Unified and 8.2 percent at Snowline Joint Unified.

More than one in three students -- 33.6 percent -- drop out of Los Angeles Unified schools, according to the report.

"Demographics. That's the easy answer," said Russ Munyan, Coordinator of Curriculum for the HUSD, whose office prepared Hesperia's data for the department of education. "The difficult part is identifying what it is about our demographics" that contributes to the dropout rate.

"We have a high percentage of low socio-economic [students]. Those folks don't have a lot of support system."

Lucerne and Snowline are more homogenous populations with a narrow range of needs. In contrast, Hesperia and Victorville have a wide range of students with diverse needs. And it's compounded by a student body that has a fair degree of turnover over the course of even a single school year. The four-year 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.

"We have a more transient population," Munyan said. "The transiency is part of the culture. It's easy in, easy out."

Hesperia has the tools needed to bring its dropout rate still lower in years to come, according to its school board president.

"We've got an awfully good group of people," Kirk said. "They love the kids and work over time to [reach] and help the kids. That's probably as important as any program."

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.