• by Roy L. Johnson, M.S. • IDRA Newsletter • October 2013 •
Recent trends in attrition rates for Texas public high schools continue to show a seeming positive outlook for the number and percent of students who continue their school enrollment through graduation. IDRA’s latest annual attrition study shows that the overall attrition rate declined from 29 percent in 2009-10 to 27 percent in 2010-11 to 26 percent in 2011-12 to 25 percent in 2012-13. For the fourth time in the 28-year history of reporting trends in dropout and attrition rates in Texas public schools, this latest study shows that fewer than 30 percent of students were lost from public enrollment prior to graduation with a diploma.
IDRA’s annual attrition study released this month builds on a series of studies that track the number and percent of students in Texas who are lost from public school enrollment prior to graduation. IDRA conducted the first comprehensive study of school dropouts in Texas, which was released in October 1986 (Cárdenas, et al., 1986). In that study, IDRA found that the attrition rate was 33 percent.
Over the last decade, attrition rates have been on a steady decline by 1 or 2 percentage points each year. Though this implies improvement in schools’ abilities to hold on to their students until they graduate, long-term trend assessments also suggest that this seeming rosy picture is blurred by the persistent gaps among racial and ethnic groups, along with the fact that schools still are losing one out of every four students.
In the most recent annual attrition study that examines school holding power in Texas public high schools, IDRA found that 25 percent of the freshman class of 2009-10 left school prior to graduating in the 2012-13 school year. The current statewide attrition rate of 25 percent is 7 percentage points lower than the initial rate of 33 percent found in IDRA’s landmark 1985-86 study. The attrition rate in Texas is 24 percent lower than the 1985-86 rate.
For each racial and ethnic group, the study found that current attrition rates were lower than in the first study. However, the gaps between the attrition rates of White students and Hispanic students and of White students and Black students are higher than 28 years ago. Between White students and Hispanic students, the attrition rate gap has increased from 18 percentage points in 1985-86 to 19 percentage points in 2012-13. The attrition rate gap between White students and Black students has almost doubled from 7 percentage points in 1985-86 to 12 percentage points in 2012-13.*
The full study is available on IDRA’s web site at www.idra.org and includes methodology, historical statewide attrition rates and numbers of students lost to attrition categorized by race-ethnicity and by gender, a county-level data map, a county-level attrition rate table, trend data by county, and historical county-level numbers of students lost to attrition.
Key findings of the latest study include the following.
- The overall attrition rate declined from 33 percent in 1985-86 to 25 percent in 2012-13.
- The overall attrition rate was less than 30 percent in the last four study years: 29 percent in 2009-10, 27 percent in 2010-11, 26 percent in 2011-12, and 25 percent in 2012-13.
- One out of every four students (25 percent) from the freshman class of 2009-10 left school prior to graduating with a high school diploma – meaning, Texas public schools still are failing to graduate one out of every four students.
- 99,575 students from the 2009-10 freshman class were lost from public high school enrollment in 2012-13 compared to 86,276 in 1985-86.
- From 1985-86 to 2012-13, attrition rates of Hispanic students declined by 27 percent (from 45 percent to 33 percent). During this same period, the attrition rates of Black students declined by 18 percent (from 34 percent to 26 percent). Attrition rates of White students declined by 48 percent (from 27 percent to 14 percent).*
- The gaps between the attrition rates of White students and Hispanic students and between White students and Black students are dramatically higher than 6 years ago. The gap between White students and Hispanic students increased by 28 percent from 1985-86 to 2012-13, and the attrition gap between White students and Black students increased by 71 percent from 1985-86 to 2012-13.*
- For the class of 2012-13, Hispanic students and Black students are about two times more likely to leave school without graduating than White students.
- Since 1986, Texas schools have lost a cumulative total of more than 3.3 million students from public high school enrollment prior to graduation.*
- The attrition rates for males have been higher than those of females. In the class of 2012-13, males were 1.3 times more likely to leave school without graduating with a diploma than females.
- From 1985-86 to 2012-13, attrition rates of male students declined by 20 percent (from 35 percent to 28 percent) while the attrition rates of female students declined by 31 percent (from 32 percent to 22 percent).
A supplemental analysis using linear regression models predicts that at the current pace Texas will reach an attrition rate of zero until over two decades from this year.
IDRA is currently conducting additional research to explore the attrition rate trends and the disparity in attrition rates between racial and ethnic groups. IDRA is continuing to urge communities to come together to review issues surrounding school dropouts and to take action for the benefit of children and the future of Texas. IDRA’s online OurSchool data portal helps community and school partners examine their school data and plan joint actions to improve school holding power. The portal can be accessed free of charge at www.idra.org/OurSchool. IDRA’s one-page Quality School Holding Power Checklist provides a set of criteria for assessing and selecting effective dropout prevention strategies. These and other resources are available at www.idra.org/research_articles/attrition-dropout-rates-texas/.
*Note: This paragrah was revised in the online versionon October 21, 2013.
Robledo Montecel, M. (principal investigator). Texas School Dropout Survey Project, seven volumes: Vol 1: Magnitude of the Problem – Census Analysis; Vol 2: Magnitude of the Problem – Attrition Analyses; Vol 3: Magnitude of the Problem – School District Research and Procedures; Vol 4: Magnitude of the Problem – School District Research and Procedures; Vol 5: Benefit-Cost Impact of the Dropout Program; Vol 6: Program Responses – Their Nature and Effectiveness; Vol 7: Study Methods and Procedures; plus A Summary of the Findings (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, October 1986).
Roy L. Johnson, M.S., is director of IDRA Support Services. Comments and questions may be directed to him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2013, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the October 2013 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.]