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NEW REPORT FINDS HIGH ATTRITION RATES AMONG TEXAS HIGH SCHOOLS: Two Million Students Failed to Graduate Between 1985 and 2004

"Texas School Holding Power Improves-But Progress Is Slow,"

Texas schools are failing to graduate two out of every five students, according to a new study by the Intercultural Development Research Association (IRDA), a San Antonio-based think tank. According to the study, “Texas School Holding Power Improves-But Progress Is Slow,” Texas has an overall high school attrition rate of 36 percent, but much higher rates for Hispanic students (49 percent) and black students (44 percent).

“This gives us a grim long-term picture of a consistent problem that has not been effectively addressed,” said Dr. Maria Robledo Montecel, IRDA’s executive director. “In fact, eighteen years later, attrition rates are higher than the original rate of 33 percent that alarmed many state and community leaders in 1986.”

The report defined attrition rates as “an indicator of a school’s holding power or ability to keep students enrolled in school and learning until they graduate,” and calculated rates by examining the percent change in grade-level enrollment between ninth grade in a base year and twelfth grade three years later.

While IRDA found that the number and percent of students who failed to graduate has increased for the state of Texas since the 1985-86 school year, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) reports that dropout rates have declined over the same period. Whereas IRDA reported an overall attrition rate of 33 percent in 1985-86, growing to a 36 percent attrition rate in 2003-04, the TEA showed a decline in dropouts, from 6.7 percent in 1987-88 to less than 1 percent in 2002-03.

The study showed that more than two million secondary school students failed to graduate between 1985 and 2004. Annually, the report found, approximately 121,000 students drop out and cost the state more than $500 billion in foregone income, lost tax revenues, and increased job training, welfare, unemployment, and criminal justice costs.

The complete report is available at

A “Cold, Complacent State”? Report Urges Changes at High School and College LevelsEarlier this year, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) asked the Citizens League, an independent, nonpartisan organization based in Minnesota, to make recommendations on how to best position Minnesota for the twenty-first century. According to their report, Minnesota must make reforms to its high schools and higher education system in order to meet the challenges of the state’s economic, demographic, and state budget climate in the future.

“The facts point to a higher education infrastructure that has problems given the growing state budget pressures,” Pawlenty said. “Minnesota’s future depends upon a strong, efficient and accessible system of higher education. It’s clear from the report that strategic changes are essential to maintaining Minnesota’s edge.”

The report noted Minnesota’s reputation for providing a quality education, but stressed that the state was beginning to lose its advantage because of current education trends within the state and in the world. For example, Minnesota is currently ranked eighth in the country as a high-tech state, but its junior and senior high school students rarely take higher-level math and science. Of every one hundred Minnesota ninth graders, only eighty-four graduate from high school on time, fifty-three directly enter college, thirty-eight are still enrolled in college after their freshman year, and just twenty-five percent graduate within six years.

At the college level, the report found that more than 30 percent of Minnesota high school graduates need remediation classes in order to begin higher education and that the number of students who were enrolled in higher education declined by 7 percent from 1992 to 2002. Among minority students, only 3 percent of black and American Indian students, and 5 percent of Hispanic students, will receive a bachelor’s degree in Minnesota within ten years of first enrolling in college.

“Minnesotans cannot afford to let complacency distract us from the critical need to address these trends,” the report reads. “For a cold state that depends on a globally-envied education system to support our economy and quality of life, Minnesotans should be alarmed over our eroding competitive advantage in the knowledge economy.”

The report stressed a need for increased expectations-both in high school and in higher education. It suggested setting at least two years of post-high school education as a minimum level of academic attainment for every student, as well as reforming the senior year and making better use of the time that students spend in high school to help them be better prepared to enter higher education. The report also suggested that the state provide parents, students, and educators with an online report card for all education institutions and urged the creation of a Higher Education Performance Council that would help “maximize the results that Minnesotans are receiving for their $1.3 billion investment in higher education.”

The complete report is available at



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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.