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Texas Dropout Rate Slightly Better, Effects of Budget Cuts Loom

December, 2011

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Texas Public School Attrition Study, 2010-11 • • December 2011

For two years in a row, the Texas high school attrition rate has been below 30 percent, according to IDRA’s newest Texas Public School Attrition Study

Still, 27 percent of freshmen, more than one in four students in the state, leave school before graduating. In all, 3.1 million students have been lost to attrition since IDRA conducted its first annual attrition study in 1985-86. And at the current rate, the state is on a path to losing 2.8 million more students over the next 25 years. Also, graduation gaps among White and Black students and White and Latino students are wider than they were in the mid-1980s.

In all, over 110,000 students were lost from our public high schools in 2010-11. To address a problem of this magnitude takes forthrightness about the challenge; clarity about what really makes a difference; and the willingness to partner, invest and persist in efforts that value and prepare all students. But today, mixed results reflect uneven commitment. While some exciting and effective work is underway in schools and communities, we’re still actually planning for, and even banking on, our children’s failure. 

Fortunately, what we do in public policy and practice comes down to choices. If the latest statewide findings don’t square with our vision for all children, we have the power to change course.

¡Usted puede recibir esta edición de Graduation for All en español!

Here are the key findings from IDRA’s 2010-11 Texas Public School Attrition Study:

  • The statewide attrition rate was 27 percent for 2010-11. 
  • Thirteen students per hour leave before graduating high school.
  • At this rate, Texas will not reach universal high school education for another quarter of a century, in 2037.
  • Numerically, 110,804 students were lost from our public high schools in 2010-11.
  • The racial-ethnic gaps are dramatically higher than 26 years ago. The gap between the attrition rates of White students and Black students has increased from 7 percentage points to 16. The gap between the rates of White students and Hispanic students has increased from 18 percentage points to 23.
  • Black students and Hispanic students are about two times more likely to leave school without graduating with a diploma than White students.

Full study findings.

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“Our research and decades of experience show clearly that 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 schools partner with parents and communities, and when students themselves feel engaged.” Dr. María Robledo Montecel, IDRA President

Attrition Data, Resources and Tools for Action:

2011 Study – Texas Public School Attrition Study, 2010-11

Look Up Your County – See attrition rates and numbers over the last 10 years

Infographic: Texas public schools are losing one out of four students

Tool – Quality School Holding Power Checklist

OurSchool data portal – see district- and high school-level data

Courage to Connect: A Quality Schools Action Framework

Overview of the Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, which keeps 98 percent of students in school

Ideas and Strategies for Action

Set of principles for policymakers and school leaders

Classnotes Podcast: “Counting Dropouts”

Graduation for All E-letter (English/Spanish)

Frequently Asked Questions

Listing of other dropout and graduation studies

See for related articles and studies (keyword: dropouts)

Fair Funding Now! Initiative to press for appropriate resources for an excellent, equitable public education for all students

“When school started, I felt a big emptiness inside me. I felt that if I missed a day of class no one would notice… Through the VYP, three kids have made a change in my life…My three tutees really miss me if I don’t go even for one day. For Christmas, I got them gifts, and they gave me thank you cards. It made me proud that, if it wasn’t for me, they wouldn’t be able to write or they would be behind in their writing. I now know that I am making a big difference in their lives as they are making one in my life.” - Luis Vallejo, student and Coca-Cola Valued Youth tutor, Juan D. Salinas Middle School in his award-winning essay. 

Recently featured in an Univision video broadcast as part of its Es El Momento campaign, the IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program keeps 98 percent of participating students in school by valuing them, without exception.  

Graduation for All is lovingly dedicated to our colleague and friend, Mrs. Martha Hernández who passed away on November 22, 2011. Committed every day to improving the lives of others, Martha brought care to all things. The Martha A. Hernández Memorial Scholarship will honor her dedication to young people. Martha, you will be forever in our hearts.

As always, we welcome your insights, questions and suggestions at Thank you for reading.

Laurie Posner
Graduation for All Coordinator
Intercultural Development Research Association
5815 Callaghan Road, Suite 101
San Antonio, Texas 78228

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