“We must really decide to graduate every student, believe we can and make it happen,” says IDRA director

San Antonio (October 30, 2007) – Texas schools are losing one-third of their students. And the attrition rate gaps between White students and Black and Hispanic students are actually growing. The Intercultural Development Research Association released detailed findings today from its latest study showing that the high school attrition rate is 34 percent. In Texas for 2006-07, 45 percent of Hispanic students, 40 percent of Black students, and 20 percent of White students were lost from public school enrollment.

Directed by Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA releases its annual attrition study in the October issue of its newsletter, which became available today online at www.idra.org. Attrition rates are an indicator of a school’s holding power, or ability to keep students enrolled in school and learning until they graduate. IDRA has used the same methodology since its inaugural statewide study in 1986. IDRA conducted 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. The study in 1986 was the state’s first major effort to assess the school holding power of Texas public schools.

The annual attrition studies since then include county-level data by race and ethnicity. Trend graphs of high school attrition in each Texas county are available online.

IDRA research shows that between 1985-86 and 2006-07, more than 2.6 million secondary students have been lost from public school enrollment in the state.

“With the magnitude of this loss, what is needed is a seismic shift from dropout prevention to graduation for all; and all must mean all,” said Dr. Robledo Montecel. “We must move from a low and archaic expectation that only some of our country’s students can successfully graduate from high school to a guarantee that all of our students will graduate.”

“Since this problem is systemic, the solutions must address schools as systems,” she added. IDRA’s Quality School Action Framework shows how communities and schools can work together to strengthen public schools’ capacities to improve the holding power of schools.

“Students are far more likely to succeed and graduate when they have the chance to work with highly qualified, committed teachers, using effective, accessible curricula, when their parents and communities are engaged in their schools, and when they themselves feel engaged,” said Dr. Robledo Montecel. “We know that this becomes possible when schools and school policy reflect good governance and the funding to provide excellent education for all students.”

To turn things around, schools and communities in Texas and around the country are looking to new ways to understand the obstacles to school success and to work together to address them. Gathering quality information is a first step. To meet this need, IDRA has developed a School Holding Power web portal that places accurate, high quality information in the hands of people at the leading edge of systems change. Through the portal, educators and community members can find out how well their high school campus is preparing and graduating students, what factors may be weakening school holding power, and what they can do to address them.

The main IDRA web site section on school holding power lists vital components for successful dropout prevention based on a review of research and IDRA’s 22 years of experience with its highly-successful dropout prevention program, the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program. Also available are frequently asked questions.

The attrition study concludes: “Improving school holding power in our public schools is not only a Texas issue but also a national imperative since one in three of our nation’s students leave our schools prior to graduating with a diploma. Working together, all stakeholders (school personnel, parents, students, educators, policymakers, researchers, etc.) can make a difference in strengthening school holding power.”

Visit the IDRA online press room resources on school holding power to view the report, attrition by county and background information.

Contact: Christie L. Goodman, APR, at IDRA, 210-444-1710; christie.goodman@idra.org.