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Research

School Policies and Practices Impact High School Attrition Rates in Bexar County


Web Story Released December 23, 2016 with the IDRA Attrition Study 


In late 2016, 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.

While IDRA’s attrition study and related reports released in November 2016 focused on the state Texas. this story site provides key data specific to Bexar County. Resources and details about the full study are available online as well.

“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. In today’s economy, Texas cannot afford to fully educate some students and not others. We just can’t.”

– Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA President & CEO

28% Attrition Rate in Bexar County

High schools in Bexar County lost 28 percent of their 2015-16 class to attrition, up from 27 percent in the previous year. While the rates for White students went down by one percentage point, the rates for Hispanic students rose by two points, and for African American students, rates rose by five points.

Being poor or minority means you are more likely to be in an underfunded school with teachers who are not well prepared. IDRA’s latest report shows also that if you are poor or minority or speak another language, you are more likely to be affected by policies and practices that don’t work effectively to keep students in school through graduation.

See our new Infographic: “6 School Policies that Lead to Higher Dropout Rates.”

See attrition rates and numbers over the last 10 years for other Texas counties.


10,800 Bexar County Students Held Back In Grade

Retained students have a 14 percent to 50 percent higher risk of dropping out. The risk increases to 90 percent for those retained twice. While the highest numbers of students retained in Texas are in high school, roughly the same number of first graders are retained as are tenth graders.

In Bexar County, about 10,800 students were retained in 2013-14. Accelerated instruction in regular and summer programs has been shown to produce better results than in-grade retention.

See our related article: “In-Grade Retention in the EarlyYears – What’s Holding Children Back?”


Temporary Policy Relieves High-Stakes for 370 Bexar County Students

Use of Individual Graduation Committees Unlocks Diplomas for Qualified Students

Texas requires students to pass five exit STAAR exams to graduate high school. With the new alternative graduation policy established by the Texas legislature in SB149, students who have completed all requirements and do not pass one or two of the end-of-course exams may still graduate if approved by an individual graduation committee (IGC).

Students who are economically disadvantaged, Latino or African American benefited most from this policy. The policy is set to expire in 2017.

In Bexar County, 370 students were deemed eligible to graduate through this policy that is set to expire in 2017.

“Student assessment is essential to informing good teaching and can help communities hold local schools accountable for effectively serving all students, but children must not be hurt in the process.”

-Dr. María Cuca Robledo Montecel, IDRA President & CEO


53,000 Bexar County Students Suspended or Sent to Disciplinary Alternative Schools

Zero tolerance policies likely contribute to high attrition rates of Black students and Hispanic students in Texas public schools. IDRA compared the trend lines for attrition rates to those of discipline data for the state of Texas. The historical high attrition rate for each race-ethnicity group parallels the period when zero tolerance policies gained momentum in Texas. Lower attrition rates for each group coincide with Texas’ legislative attempts to relax zero tolerance approaches under specific circumstances.

In Bexar County, more than 53,000 students were suspended or sent to disciplinary alternative schools.

“This has huge consequences as the data show nationally that children are up to 10 times more likely to drop out of high school if they’ve been expelled or suspended,”

-Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA President & CEO


See our story-site with interactive graphs and tables: “ZeroTolerance Policies in Texas Push Black Students and Hispanic Students Away fromSchool”


See the full study of high school attrition in Texas

Despite Graduation Rate Progress, Texas Appears Stuck at Losing One-Fourth of High Schoolers 

See IDRA’s latest study of high school attrition in Texas, released on November 1, 2016.

See Infographic: 6 School Policies that Lead to Higher Dropout Rates

Zero tolerance is one of six school policies that lead to higher dropout rates as outlined in IDRA’s latest infographic. See the larger PDF version here.

See eBook: Resources on Student Discipline Policy and Practice

There are a number of things educators and policymakers in Texas can do to make sustainable changes that will reduce bias and help all students stay in school to learn. IDRA’s eBook, Resources on Student Discipline Policy and Practice, points to several tools and best practices for educators.


See Infographic: 6 School Policies that Lead to Higher Dropout Rates

Zero tolerance is one of six school policies that lead to higher dropout rates as outlined in IDRA’s latest infographic. See the larger PDF version here.


See eBook: Resources on Student Discipline Policy and Practice 

There are a number of things educators and policymakers in Texas can do to make sustainable changes that will reduce bias and help all students stay in school to learn. IDRA’s eBook, Resources on Student Discipline Policy and Practice, points to several tools and best practices for educators.


The Intercultural Development Research Association is an independent, non-profit organization. Our mission is to achieve equal educational opportunity for every child through strong public schools that prepare all students to access and succeed in college. IDRA strengthens and transforms public education by providing dynamic training; useful research, evaluation, and frameworks for action; timely policy analyses; and innovative materials and programs. Contact IDRA at: www.idra.org • https://www.facebook.com/IDRAed/ • contact@idra.org • 210-444-1710.

Portions of this report and related resources were developed by the IDRA EAC-South, which is one of the four federally-funded equity assistance centers that help school districts build capacity to confront educational problems occasioned by race, national origin, sex and gender, and religion. Preceded by the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity, the IDRA EAC-South provides technical assistance and training to build capacity of local educators in multiple areas including reducing disproportionate school discipline for school districts cited by the Office for Civil Rights. Contact the IDRA EAC-South  at:  http://www.idra.org/eac-south/ •  eacsouth@idra.org.

December 23, 2016, IDRA

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