• by Roy L. Johnson, M.S. • IDRA Newsletter • October 2014 •
High school attrition rates in Texas have declined from 33 percent in 1985-86 to 24 percent in 2013-14. Recent trends in attrition rates for Texas public high schools continue to reflect a positive outlook for the total high school population and for each race-ethnicity and gender group.
IDRA’s latest annual attrition study shows that the overall attrition rate declined by 1 percentage point for the fifth consecutive time in the 29-year trend analyses of dropout and attrition rates in Texas public schools. The 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 to 24 percent in 2013-14. Fewer than 30 percent of students were lost from public enrollment prior to graduation with a diploma after 24 years of rates ranging from 31 percent to 43 percent.
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. Since conducting the first comprehensive study of school dropouts in Texas in 1985-86, IDRA has conducted attrition analyses each year to assess schools’ abilities to hold on to their students until they graduate.
Attrition rates are an indicator of a school’s holding power or ability to keep students enrolled in school and learning until they graduate. Along with other dropout measures, attrition rates are useful in studying the magnitude of the dropout problem and the success of schools in keeping students in school. In simplest terms, attrition is defined as shrinkage in size or number; therefore, an attrition rate is the percent change in grade level between a base year and an end year.
In the most recent annual attrition study that examines school holding power in Texas public high schools, IDRA found that 24 percent of the freshman class of 2010-11 left school prior to graduating in the 2013-14 school year. The current statewide attrition rate of 24 percent is 9 percentage points lower than the initial rate of 33 percent found in IDRA’s landmark 1985-86 study. The attrition rate in Texas is 27 percent lower than the 1985-86 rates.
For each racial and ethnic group, the study found that current attrition rates are lower than in the first study. Attrition rates of Hispanic students declined by 31 percent (from 45 percent to 31 percent). During this same period, the attrition rates of Black students declined by 26 percent (from 34 percent to 25 percent). Attrition rates of White students declined by 52 percent (from 27 percent to 13 percent).
Attrition rates of male students declined by 26 percent (from 35 percent to 26 percent) while the attrition rates of female students declined by 34 percent (from 32 percent to 21 percent).
Despite the positive trends in attrition rates overall, there are still some areas of concern. The gap between the attrition rates of White students and Hispanic students and of White students and Black students are equal to or higher than 28 years ago. Between White students and Hispanic students, the attrition rate gap is back to 18 percentage points in 1985-86 and 2013-14. The attrition rate gap between White students and Black students almost doubled from 7 percentage points in 1985-86 to 12 percentage points in 2013-14.
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:
- One out of every four students (24 percent) from the freshman class of 2010-11 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.
- The overall attrition rate declined by 1 percentage point in the last year, and from 33 percent in 1985-86 to 24 percent in 2013-14.
- The overall attrition rate was less than 30 percent in the last five study years: 29 percent in 2009-10, 27 percent in 2010-11, 26 percent in 2011-12, 25 percent in 2012-13, and 24 percent in 2013-14.
- 94,711 students from the 2010-11 freshman class were lost from public high school enrollment in 2013-14 compared to 86,276 in 1985-86.
- From 1985-86 to 2013-14, attrition rates of Hispanic students declined by 31 percent (from 45 percent to 31 percent). During this same period, the attrition rates of Black students declined by 26 percent (from 34 percent to 25 percent). Attrition rates of White students declined by 52 percent (from 27 percent to 13 percent).
- The gaps between the attrition rates of White students and Hispanic students and between White students and Black students are equal to or higher than 28 years ago. The gap between White students and Hispanic students is back down to 18 percentage points from 1985-86 to 2013-14, and the attrition gap between White students and Black students increased by 71 percent from 1985-86 to 2013-14.
- For the class of 2013-14, 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 3.4 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 2013-14, males were 1.2 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 26 percent (from 35 percent to 26 percent) while the attrition rates of female students declined by 34 percent (from 32 percent to 21 percent).
In 2014, IDRA conducted additional research to explore reasons for declining attrition rates; this study is expected to be released in early 2015.
A supplemental analysis using linear regression models predicts that, at the current pace, Texas will not reach an attrition rate of zero until the year 2034-35. This analysis is included in the full study online.
In contrast, IDRA released a report in February, College Bound and Determined, showing how the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district in south Texas doubled its number of graduates, halved the dropout rate and increased college-going rates in just a few years.
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/.
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.
[©2014, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the October 2014 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.]