• by Roy L. Johnson, M.S. • IDRA Newsletter • October 2015 •
The overall high school attrition rate held firm in Texas from 2013-14 to 2014-15 at 24 percent. IDRA’s latest annual attrition study shows that the overall attrition rate remained unchanged from one year to the next following four consecutive years of one percentage point declines.
This year’s study is the 30th in a series of annual reports on trends in dropout and attrition rates in Texas public schools. It shows that high school attrition rates in Texas have declined from 33 percent three decades ago to 24 percent in 2014-15. Recent trends in attrition rates for Texas public high schools continue to reflect a positive outlook for the total high school population and for most race-ethnicity and gender group.
The latest study released this month builds on a series of studies by IDRA 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 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 this year’s study that examines school holding power in Texas public high schools through an attrition analysis, IDRA found that 24 percent of the freshman class of 2011-12 left school prior to graduating in the 2014-15 school year. This 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 rate is 27 percent lower than the 1985-86 rate.
For each racial and ethnic group, the study found that attrition rates today are lower than in the first study three decades ago. 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 24 percent (from 34 percent to 26 percent). Attrition rates of White students declined by 48 percent (from 27 percent to 14 percent). Attrition rates of male students declined by 23 percent (from 35 percent to 27 percent), while the attrition rates of female students declined by 31 percent (from 32 percent to 22 percent).
The positive trends in attrition rates overall are not without some areas of concern. First, some subgroups, including Black students, White students, male students and female students, experienced a one percentage point increase from 2013-14 to 2014-15.
Second, the gaps between the attrition rates of White students and Hispanic students and of White students and Black students continue to be about the same or higher than 30 years ago. Between White students and Hispanic students, the attrition rate gap was 17 percentage points in 2014-15. The attrition rate gap between White students and Black students almost doubled from 7 percentage points in 1985-86 to 12 percentage points in 2014-15.
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:
- Texas public schools still are failing to graduate one out of every four students. One out of every four students (24 percent) from the freshman class of 2011-12 left school prior to graduating with a high school diploma.
- A total of 99,297 students from the 2011-12 freshman class were lost from public high school enrollment in 2014-15 compared to 86,276 in 1985-86.
- For the class of 2014-15, Hispanic students and Black students are about two times more likely to leave school without graduating than White students.
- In three decades, the overall attrition rate declined from 33 percent in 1985-86 to 24 percent in 2014-15.
- The overall attrition rate has been less than 30 percent in the last six 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 both 2013-14 and 2014-15.
- From 1985-86 to 2014-15, 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 24 percent (from 34 percent to 26 percent). Attrition rates of White students declined by 48 percent (from 27 percent to 14 percent).
- The gap between White students and Hispanic students was 18 percentage points in 1985-86 compared to 17 percentage points in 2014-15, and the attrition gap between White students and Black students increased by 71 percent from 1985-86 to 2014-15.
- Since 1986, Texas schools have lost a cumulative total of more than 3.5 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 2014-15, males were 1.2 times more likely to leave school without graduating with a diploma than females.
- From 1985-86 to 2014-15, attrition rates of male students declined by 23 percent (from 35 percent to 27 percent), while the attrition rates of female students declined by 31 percent (from 32 percent to 22 percent).
A supplemental analysis by IDRA education associate, Felix Montes, Ph.D., using linear regression models predicts that at the current pace Texas will not reach an attrition rate of zero until the year 2034-35.
IDRA continues 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. Recently, IDRA supported a convening of community members and families in the Texas Rio Grande Valley to encourage superintendents to adopt a graduation plan to prepare college-ready students.
In addition to IDRA’s attrition analysis, the full report includes an analysis of the TEA’s latest dropout report and takes a special look at English language learners. The report also provides the supplemental prospective analysis and federal data across states. These and other resources are available at www.idra.org/research_articles/attrition-dropout-rates-texas/.
Johnson, R. “Texas High School Attrition Rates Stall,” Texas Public School Attrition Study, 2014-15 (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, October 2015).
Roy L. Johnson, M.S., is director of Support Services. Comments and questions may be directed to him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2015, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the October 2015 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.]