Too stressed at Dougherty Valley High

Third Place, In-Depth & Investigative Reporting

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Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

Part I: Transfers to Cal Jump 85 Percent in Last 3 Years

California High School has seen over the past three years a jump of nearly 85 percent in intradistrict transfer students, the majority of whom are coming from Dougherty Valley High School.

Transfers to Cal High have increased from 59 students in 2017 to 109 this year, an 84.75 percent increase, according to San Ramon Valley Unified School District figures. Of the 109 students who transferred to Cal from the three other district high schools this year, 94 came from Dougherty.

Many Dougherty students who transferred share one main reason for coming to Cal High: they were too stressed at Dougherty. All but one of the 10 Dougherty transfer students interviewed cited academic stress as the reason for moving schools.

“There’s a lot of academic pressure,” junior Natasha Chodavarapu said.

Sophomore Govindh Kumar said competition among Dougherty students caused teachers to increase the difficulty of their classes, which created even more competition. Kumar said that he liked Dougherty’s teachers, but the academics were just too hard.

“Cal is a better place for me,” Kumar said.

Sophomore Conner Tom said he wanted more support from Dougherty teachers, who he believe often assume students understood the material being taught. Junior Sonya Kapur said she really appreciated the level of student involvement at Dougherty and the school’s fun events, but she felt the need for a move this year.

“It was really rigorous with academic studies, and I needed a break,” Kapur said.

Dougherty is the only district high school that has a net loss of transfer students in each of the past three years, meaning more students have transferred from Dougherty than to the school.

Since the 2017-18 school year, 276 students have transferred from Dougherty, while 124 have gone to the school for a net loss of 152 students. The only other school with a net loss of transfers is Monte Vista (-44). Cal has gained 78 students and San Ramon Valley has the most with 118.

Between 2017 and 2019, the number of transfers to Dougherty increased 24.24 percent, rising from 33 to 41, while the number of transfers leaving Dougherty grew

by 88.4 percent, jumping from 69 to 130 students.

Between 2017 and 2019, the number of transfers from Cal to other district high schools increased 21.15 percent (52 to 63). This year, 22 Cal students transferred to Dougherty, while 14 went to Monte Vista and 27 went to San Ramon Valley.

“I am transferring to Dougherty because I wish to take Chinese and political science courses that Cal doesn’t offer,” said junior Dmitry Novikov, who is leaving at the quarter.

Sophomore Antonio Manso transferred to Dougherty this year because he lives near the school, is impressed with its high ranking and likes the overall

environment.

“Dougherty has people that are a lot nicer,” Manso said.

Students in the district attend schools based on where their families live. If students want to attend a different school, they must apply for a transfer.

“Students choose to move between schools for a variety of reasons including different programs that our schools offer, transportation considerations, household movement and even in some cases to be at the same school with a group of friends,” Elizabeth Graswich, the district’s director of communications and community relations, wrote in an email.

The district has seen a 56 percent increase in intradistrict transfers the past three school years, jumping from 239 in 2017 to 373 this year.

“One of our key tenets of our district philosophy is offering our families flexibility and options,” Graswich wrote. “While there are times when enrollment considerations prevent the district from granting transfer requests, when possible, we do try to honor them.”

Part II: District transfers flock to Cal, SRV

Despite being the top ranked high schools in the district, Dougherty Valley and Monte Vista high schools have seen the most intradistrict transfer students leave their campuses.

This year, 250 of the 373 high school students who transferred within the San Ramon Valley Unified School District left Dougherty and Monte Vista, with the majority of these students going to San Ramon Valley and Cal High, according to district figures.

Dougherty had the most intradistrict transfer from its campus with 130 students, despite being ranked No. 20 in the state and 192 nationally, according to U.S. News and World Report’s 2019 Best High School Rankings. followed by Cal with 109, even though both schools are ranked lower academically.

San Ramon also had the highest net gain of intradistrict transfers with 77, followed by Cal with 46. This shows how many more students transferred to the school than from the school. Dougherty Valley had the greatest net loss of students at 89, followed by Monte Vista with 34.

As reported in the Oct. 10 issue of The Californian, many Dougherty students who transferred to Cal did so because of academic stress.

This story was an honoree in the 2020 Lesher Awards competition.