• by Josie Danini Cortez, M.A. • IDRA Newsletter • October 2006 • Josie Cortez

Twenty years ago, no one knew how many students Texas schools were losing before high school graduation. No one knew the reasons they left school, what it cost this state or what schools could do about it. The Intercultural Development Research Association was the first to answer those questions and, decades later, remains steadfast in its commitment to make a difference for children and youth.

IDRA has made a difference through its research and program development in these critical areas. Foremost was the 1986 Texas Dropout Survey Project.

Dropout Prevention in 1986

In that original study, IDRA found that approximately one out of 10 Texas school districts reported having a dropout prevention program. Yet nine out of 10 dropout programs had no evaluation data. This meant that districts were unaware of whether or not their programs were having any impact in keeping students in school through high school graduation.

Fast-forward to 2006, and schools still are not effectively evaluating the effectiveness of dropout prevention efforts. Fashola and Slavin’s Show Me the Evidence: Proven and Promising Programs for America’s Schools reported that only two dropout prevention programs in the country, one of which is IDRA’s Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, were researched and evaluated rigorously.

IDRA’s 1986 research also showed that most dropout prevention programs were based on a deficit paradigm – fixing the child or the family rather than looking at institutional solutions. IDRA’s Dallas Dropout Study, a 30-month study of the dropout issue in the Dallas Independent School District in 1986, was the first research study to identify factors contributing to and preventing student dropouts using a paradigm that values students and identifies what schools can do to prevent students from dropping out of school. IDRA interviewed 200 students who dropped out of school and 200 students still in school, as well as parents of both groups.

The major findings included:

  • Students first think about leaving school while still in middle school.
  • Most leave school between eighth and ninth grades, and between ninth and 10th grades.
  • Students tend to leave school if they:
    • Change schools often,
    • Work more than 15 hours per week,
    • Are behind in academics and get no support,
    • Are retained in grade,
    • Are bored with classes, or
    • Are encouraged by school personnel to leave.

The most significant finding and the one that schools could immediately act upon was that students tend to stay in school if they believe there is someone who cares about them and if they are involved in school activities.

IDRA found similar results with its more recent Arizona Dropout Study, conducted for the Arizona Minority Education Policy Analysis Center (AMEPAC) in 2002. IDRA found that Arizona was losing about one third of its students (31 percent or 21,472 were lost from the 1997 freshman class) with Hispanic students (43 percent) and Native American students (48 percent) having the highest dropout rates.

As with Texas, Arizona had few dropout prevention programs with research or evaluation data. Arizona also had no central clearinghouse on dropout prevention programs for the state.

IDRA’s extensive research in dropout prevention clearly shows that for a program to be successful, the following components must be in place:

  • All students must be valued.
  • There must be at least one educator in a student’s life who is totally committed to the success of that student.
  • Students, parents and teachers must be provided extensive, consistent support in ways that allow students to learn, teachers to teach and parents to be involved.
  • Equity and excellence in schools contribute to individual and collective economic growth, stability and advancement.
  • The solutions sought must be institution-based with family and community participation and must embrace the strengths and contributions that students and their families bring.

IDRA’s Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program was designed and developed with these critical components. For 21 years, this cross-age tutoring program has provided and is still providing an opportunity for middle school and high school students who are in at-risk situations to tutor younger students. Students are supported as Valued Youth making a significant contribution to their schools and to their communities.

Since 1984, the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program has impacted the lives of more than 416,000 tutors and tutees and has kept 23,000 students in school. The program results include:

  • High expectation and high motivation,
  • Academic success,
  • Financial assistance,
  • Belonging and contribution, and
  • Inclusion.

As a result of the program, tutors have a positive self concept, an expanded vision of life, and a greater commitment to succeed and stay in school. Their tutees learn basic skills in a safe environment, get personal attention, and form positive and strong ties. Their schools have a decreased dropout rate, increased attendance, improved communication across and within schools, increased valuing of students, and reduced disciplinary actions. Tutors’ families experience renewed family pride, economic support, and improved communication among family, tutor and school. (See article entitled “Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program– Strengthening Student Connections with School“.)

IDRA’s research also shows that dropout programs are not enough. No single program is a magic bullet. What is required is a “re-forming” of the school culture that changes the paradigm from prevention to graduation where every student is known and valued and where losing even one student is not an option.

IDRA can help your school achieve this. Contact us at 210-444-1710 (or feedback@idra.org, www.idra.org) and let us make a difference at your school.



Intercultural Development Research Association www.idra.org, 210-444-1710

Alliance for Excellent Education http://www.all4ed.org, 202-828-0828

National Dropout Prevention Center/Network www.dropoutprevention.org, 864-656-2599

National Center for Education Statistics www.nces.ed.gov, 202-502-7300

Articles and Publications

“A Quality Schools Action Framework: Framing Systems Change for Student Success,” by M. Robledo Montecel, IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio: IDRA, November-December 2005).

“From ‘Dropping Out’ to ‘Holding On’ – Seven Lessons from Texas,” by M. Robledo Montecel, IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio: IDRA, April 2004).

“Texas Needs Diplomas, Not Delusions,” testimony to the Texas State Board of Education by María Robledo Montecel, Ph.D., IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio: IDRA, September 2002).

Missing: Texas’ Youth – Dropout and Attrition in Texas Public Schools, by J.D. Supik and R.L. Johnson (San Antonio: IDRA, January 1999).

Texas School Dropout Survey Project: A Summary of Findings, by J.A. Cárdenas, M. del Refugio Robledo and J.D. Supik (San Antonio, Texas: IDRA, 1986).

Josie Danini Cortez, M.A., is the IDRA design and development coordinator. Comments and questions may be directed to her via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2006, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the October 2006 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.]