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“Investment in change must go beyond discrete dropout prevention programs. It must reflect our full commitment to providing for quality public schools in all neighborhoods for children of all backgrounds.”

One of every three students from Texas’ freshman class of 2004–05 left high school before earning a high school diploma. So says the Texas Public School Attrition Study, 2007–08, the latest in a series of reports by the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), a nonprofit organization based in San Antonio, Texas, dedicated to strengthening public schools to work for all children. The report focuses on attrition rates, which IDRA says are an indicator of a school’s “holding power,” or ability to keep students enrolled in school and learning until they graduate.

Although attrition rates have declined in recent years, IRDA finds that no improvement has occurred since the 1985-86 school year. Texas’ 33 percent attrition rate for 2007–08 continues the recent decline from the high of 43 percent in the 1996–97 school year and represents the seventh consecutive year that the overall statewide attrition rate in Texas public schools was less than 40 percent. However, the 33 percent rate for 2007–08 is the same as it was when IDRA first began its reports on student attrition back in the 1985–86 school year, meaning that the state essentially has made no progress in improving the attrition rate in the last twenty-two years.

Nor has the state made any improvement in closing the gaps between white students and their African American, Hispanic, and Native American peers. According to the report, the attrition rates for Native American and Hispanic students have decreased since 1985–86, but they have not declined as much as those of Asian/Pacific Islanders and whites. Meanwhile, the attrition rate for African American students has actually increased over the last twenty-two years, rising from 34 percent in 1985–86 to 38 percent in 2007–08.

As a result, the gaps between the attrition rates of white students and African American, Hispanic, and Native American students are increasing. As shown in the chart on page six, the gap between the attrition rates of whites and African Americans increased from 7 percentage points in 1985–86 to 20 percentage points in 2007–08. Similarly, the gap between white and Hispanic students has grown from 18 percentage points to 26 percentage points. On the other hand, the gap in attrition rates between Asian/Pacific Islanders and whites has reversed, going from a 6 percentage point deficit in 1985–86 to a 4 percentage point advantage in 2007–08.

Although African American students are the only subgroup whose attrition rate has risen, Hispanic students, at 44 percent, continue to have the highest attrition rate. Asian/Pacific Islanders, at 14 percent, have the lowest attrition rate. Native Americans, at 38 percent, are at the higher end while white students, at 18 percent, are much lower.

The report also finds that attrition rates for males, which were already higher than those for females, have gotten worse, going from 35 percent in 1985–86 to 36 percent in 2007–08. During the same time period, the attrition rates for females have improved, declining from 32 percent to 29 percent and increasing the gap in male and female attrition rates from 3 percentage points to 7 percentage points.

“It is high time that Texas take a new course,” said Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, president and CEO of IDRA. “Investment in change must go beyond discrete dropout prevention programs. It must reflect our full commitment to providing for quality public schools in all neighborhoods for children of all backgrounds.”

During the twenty-two-year period that it has performed these calculations, IDRA estimates that more than 2.8 million students have dropped out of Texas’ secondary schools.

The complete report is available at

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