31st Annual Texas Public School Attrition Study Released by IDRA

infographic-attrition-2016-3inNews Release: San Antonio (November 1, 2016) – Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education reported the nation has reached an all-time high in graduation rates and Texas is near the top. Yet, IDRA’s analysis – which examines time series data – found that the attrition rate in Texas has risen for the first time in 18 years. Though just an increase of 1 percentage point, Texas schools have been losing between 26 percent and 24 percent of high school students annually for the last five years.

“One in four freshmen disappears by their senior year, and it’s been that way for half a decade. We’re losing 12 students every hour,” said Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA president and CEO. “In today’s economy, Texas cannot afford to fully educate some students and not others. We just can’t.”

The Intercultural Development Research Association released detailed findings today from its latest study. Key findings show:

  • Texas is failing to graduate one out of every four students.
  • Texas high schools lost 102,610 students between 2012-13 and 2015-16. At
  • 106 counties had a lower attrition rate than last year, 110 counties had a higher attrition rate than last year, and 18 counties had the same rate as last year.
  • The racial-ethnic gaps are nearly as high as or higher than 30 years ago.
  • Black students and Hispanic students are about two times more likely to leave school without graduating with a diploma than White students.
  • In the last 30 years, Texas schools have lost a cumulative total of more than 3.6 million students from public high school enrollment prior to graduation.

IDRA released a new report, College Bound and Determined, in February 2014 showing how one south Texas school district transformed itself from low achievement and low expectations to planning for all students to graduate from high school and college. The result was a school district that doubled its number of high school graduates, cut dropout rates in half and increased college-going rates. Half of the district’s students are earning college credit while still in high school.

“Clearly, some school districts are taking steps to improve their school holding power, and their investment in dropout prevention programs and college readiness initiatives is paying off,” added Dr. Robledo Montecel. “But much of our state leadership has shown a willingness to neglect many of our students and their families by weakening curriculum and graduation requirements and by withholding fair funding that would pay for vital teachers and programs.”

In 2015, IDRA released research showing low funding for educating English learners affects students across Texas. English learners are among the fastest growing segments of the student population but they are one of the lowest academically performing groups. And Texas is significantly underfunding ELL education (with supplemental funding of only 10 percent despite research indicating much higher weights are needed).

“If we want to have the better results, we have to truly invest and we have to be strategic. Since this problem is systemic, the solutions must address schools as systems,” added Dr. Robledo Montecel. IDRA’s Quality School Action Framework™ guides communities and schools in identifying weak areas and strengthening public schools’ capacities to graduate and prepare all students for success. IDRA’s book, Courage to Connect: A Quality Schools Action Framework™ shows how communities and schools can work together to be successful with all of their students.

Each fall, IDRA releases its attrition study. The latest study became available today online. Attrition rates are an indicator of a school’s holding power, or the ability to keep students enrolled in school and learning until they graduate. IDRA was commissioned to conduct Texas’ first-ever comprehensive statewide study of high school dropouts using a high school attrition formula to estimate the number and percent of students who leave school prior to graduation. That study in 1986 was the state’s first major effort to assess the school holding power of Texas public schools and resulted in state-level policy reforms for the state education agency to count and report dropout data. IDRA is the only organization that has examined Texas attrition rates consistently, with the same methodology, for 31 years.

The annual attrition studies released by IDRA include county-level data by race and ethnicity. Trend graphs of high school attrition in each Texas county are available online. The study includes detailed findings, a supplemental analysis for reaching a rate of zero and graphics showing different types of dropout data. IDRA’s study also looks at the latest dropout studies released by the Texas Education Agency and the National Center for Education Statistics.

Media Contact: Christie L. Goodman, APR, at IDRA, 210-444-1710; christie.goodman@idra.org

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IDRA Attrition Study & Resources Online

2016 Study – Texas Public School Attrition Study, 2014-16

Look Up Your County – See attrition rates and numbers over the last 10 years

County List 2016 – See which counties had attrition rates go up or down

Infographic: Texas public schools are losing one out of four students

eBook on types of dropout data

Overview of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, which keeps 98 percent of students in school

Ideas and Strategies for Action

Set of principles for policymakers and school leaders

Classnotes Podcast: “Counting Dropouts”