For 25 years IDRA has been a voice for children who have been neglected, ignored and even forgotten by those who were responsible for educating them. Among the forgotten were the students who left school before graduation – the dropouts. Some have blamed children and their families for the dropout problem, but that is akin to forgetting them all over again. Since 1984, IDRA has been changing perceptions of dropouts and their reasons for leaving. IDRA’s mission – to create schools that work for all children – means creating schools where children will want to stay.

In Texas, IDRA calculates the longitudinal trends of attrition rates. In the last 12 years, the percent of students (all races and ethnicities) lost from public school enrollment has worsened, from 33 percent in 1985-86 to 42 percent in 1997-98. One out of every two Hispanic students drops out of school. When you look at the trend among Hispanic students over time, this number has increased over the past 12 years: from 45 percent of Hispanic students dropping out of school in 1986 to 53 percent in 1998.

IDRA envisions schools where administrators and teachers join together to actively create a place for all students; and that all students begin to see the possibilities of their future by concentrating on their present. To make this vision a reality IDRA has worked in several ways.

Since 1986, IDRA has conducted an annual attrition study to track the number and percent of students in Texas who are lost from public school enrollment prior to graduation from high school. IDRA gained the distinction of conducting the first comprehensive study of school dropouts in Texas when it released its initial study in October 1986 that led to the creation of the state law that requires the state education agency to include dropout data in its accountability system. IDRA has continued its attrition analyses using the same theoretical and mathematical framework to monitor the status of school dropouts in the state of Texas.

IDRA designed and implemented the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, a model dropout prevention program. More than 68,000 students, parents, teachers and administrators have been impacted by the program. It is now in more than 90 schools in the continental United States, Puerto Rico and Great Britain and continues to expand. Since 1987, the program has maintained less than a 2 percent dropout rate.

IDRA has given testimony to state and federal congressional committees and special advisory commissions citing the need for systemic change to address the needs of children in at-risk situations.

A number of initiatives and policies within schools, cities and states have been undertaken. IDRA is committed to supporting efforts to reverse the trend of high dropout rates, and has identified critical characteristics of dropout prevention strategies. Strategies must:

  • Impact the triad of school, family and community, and student.
  • Be based on the understanding of the heterogeneity and the nee for local adaptation of intervention models.
  • Include informed public policy.
  • Incorporate ways of increasing the capacity of schools, family and community, and students to produce results.
  • Provide equity in resources.
  • Include mechanisms that hold the schools accountable for results.
  • Allow for diffusion of successful approaches and the development of action networks.

IDRA believes that all students are valuable; none is expendable. The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program is one manifestation of adults connecting with youths considered potential dropouts in a way that is a testament to students’ strengths and what they can contribute to their peers, their schools, their families and their communities.

Comments and questions may be sent to IDRA via e-mail at

[1998, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Every effort has been made to maintain the content in its original form. However, accompanying charts and graphs may not be provided here. To receive a copy of the original article by mail or fax, please fill out our information request and feedback form. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]