• by Roy L. Johnson, M.S. • IDRA Newsletter • October 2008 •
In August 2008, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released its second dropout and school completion report using the dropout definition and calculation methods mandated by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The report entitled, Secondary School Completion and Dropouts in Texas Public Schools 2006-07, shows that the number of school dropouts reported by TEA for grades seven through 12 increased from 51,841 in 2005-06 to 55,306 in 2006-07, an increase of 6.7 percent (see table below). The annual dropout rate rose from 2.6 percent in 2005-06 to 2.7 in 2006-07, an increase of 3.8 percent. The attrition rate for the class of 2007 (grades nine to 12) was 30 percent compared to an attrition rate of 31.0 percent for the class of 2006.
For a number of years, IDRA and many others called for a major restructuring of the state dropout reporting system. IDRA President and CEO, María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Ph.D., testified in 2002, “Over the years, the state has pursued a course of trying to define away the dropout numbers, rather than actually decreasing the numbers of dropouts.”
The 78th Texas Legislature in 2003 passed Senate Bill 186 mandating that TEA compute dropout rates according to the NCES dropout definition and calculation standards. In order to implement the legislative requirements for the computation of dropout rates, TEA had to make changes in some dates dropout status is measured and additions to which groups of students were considered dropouts.
Using the NCES definition, a dropout is defined as “a student who is enrolled in public school in grades seven to 12, does not return to public school the following fall, is not expelled, and does not graduate, receive a General Education Development (GED) certificate, continue school outside the public school system, begin college or die.”
What a difference a dropout definition and calculation methods make. When the NCES dropout definition was used, the total number of dropouts reported by TEA increased from 18,290 in 2004-05 to 51,841 in 2005-06 and to 55,306 in 2006-07. From 2004-05 to 2006-07, the number of dropouts reported increased by 37,016 students, or by 202 percent. The dropout count was 3.02 times higher in 2006-07 than in 2004-05, and the dropout rate in 2006-07 was 3.0 times higher than in 2004-05.
Of the 55,306 reported dropouts, 2,888 were in grades seven and eight, and 52,418 were in grades nine through 12. The seventh through eighth grade dropout rate was 0.4 percent, while the ninth through 12th grade dropout rate was 3.9 percent.
The annual dropout rates of African American students and Hispanic students were much higher than the rates of White students – the rate for African American students and Hispanic students was three times higher. The 2006-07 dropout rate for African American students was 3.42 times higher than their 2004-05 rate, and the 2006-07 rate for Hispanic students was 2.64 times higher than the 2004-05 rate.
The adoption of the NCES dropout definition and standards has had a dramatic impact on the dropout count and rate reported by TEA. Since the adoption, both the dropout count and the dropout rate are three times higher than under the previous definition and calculations.
Yet, IDRA is still concerned that state reports mask the magnitude of the problem. The fact remains, communities need accurate, understandable information in order to make good decisions to improve their schools.
Roy L. Johnson, M.S., is director of IDRA Support Services. Comments and questions may be directed to him via e-mail at email@example.com.
[©2008, IDRA. The following article originally appeared in the October 2008 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. 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.]