30th Annual Texas Public School Attrition Study Released by IDRA

(October 29, 2015) – Texas high schools lost 99,297 students, more students than were lost the previous year even though the attrition rate stayed at 24 percent in 2014-15. At this rate, Texas will not reach universal high school education for another quarter of a century in 2035 and stands to lose over 2 million more students.

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.
  • 73 counties had a lower attrition rate than last year, 136 counties had a higher attrition rate than last year, and 20 counties had the same rate as last year.
  • The highest attrition rates are concentrated in regions with the largest student enrollment counts, particularly those in urban areas and those with the largest low-income and minority populations.
  • 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.
  • English language learners are the subgroup that is most likely to drop out of school.
  • In the last 30 years, Texas schools have lost a cumulative total of more than 3.5 million students from public high school enrollment prior to graduation. 

“Given the new demographics in our public schools, Texas cannot afford to educate some students and not others,” said Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA president and CEO.  “We cannot continue funding gaps; we cannot put our children in over-crowded classes; we cannot dumb down the curriculum and track our kids into vocational classes; we cannot cut college financial aid; and we cannot release schools from their responsibility to provide an excellent education for every child.”

Earlier this month, Dr. Robledo Montecel was recognized as an American Graduate Champion by the American Graduate Day initiative and KRLN-San Antonio for her leadership in creating and operating the IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, which keeps 98 percent of participating students in school. The program was also named a Hispanic Education Bright Spot by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Along with IDRA’s annual attrition study by county released today, this year’s study includes an analysis on a regional level based on Texas education service center regions. Regions with traditionally high attrition rates include: ESC Region 1 (Edinburg), ESC Region 4 (Houston), ESC Region 11 (Fort Worth), and ESC Region 20 (San Antonio).

“Considering the persistently high attrition rates in some regions, targeted resources and support services to schools and communities in these regions would be both feasible and appropriate,” said Dr. Robledo Montecel.

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.

In August, IDRA worked with community groups, parents and students who came together with 16 school superintendents from across the Rio Grande Valley to assert their expectation that all students be put on a path to graduate highly prepared for college.

“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 30 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.

IDRA Attrition Study & Resources Online

2015 Study – Texas Public School Attrition Study, 2014-15

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

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

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

See infographic: Texas public schools are losing one out of four students

See infographic: Texas is improving attrition rates by 1-2 percent each year, but one district cut its rates in half

Poor investment, higher dropout rates for Texas’ English-learners, Op-Ed by Roy Johnson for the Houston Chronicle, October 2, 2015

Texas is failing its English language learners, Op-Ed by Roy Johnson for the San Antonio Express-News, September 13, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions for reporters

eBook on types of dropout data

College Bound and Determined – A report profiling what happens when a school district raises expectations for students instead of lowering them

Tool – Quality School Holding Power Checklist

OurSchool data portal – see district- and high school-level data

Courage to Connect: A Quality Schools Action Framework

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”