Thursday, November 1, 2007

ARTICLE: Gap Widens Between Hispanic and Anglo Dropout Rates

Gap widens between Hispanic and Anglo dropout rates
By Michele Angél


AUSTIN, October 31 - A new study finds that Texas schools are losing one third of their students and the gap between Anglo, Black, and Hispanic students that drop out is growing.

The 22nd annual Texas Public School Attrition Study for 2006-07 was released this week by the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA).

The IDRA found that 45 percent of Hispanic students, 40 percent of Black students, 20 percent of Anglo students were lost from public school enrollment in Texas.

The gap between Hispanic and Anglo dropout rates, which was 18 percent when the study began, had increased to 25 percent last year.

The report’s publication coincides with a study by Johns Hopkins University into the number of high-school freshmen who graduate in four years. Almost every school on the border failed to graduate 40 percent or more of their freshmen in four years in the graduating classes of 2004, 2005 and 2006.

The study, conducted for the Associated Press, labeled the schools “dropout factories.” More than one in ten high schools in America was given that label.

“If you're born in a neighborhood or town where the only high school is one where graduation is not the norm, how is this living in the land of equal opportunity?” asked Bob Balfanz, the researcher at Johns Hopkins University who defines such a school as a “dropout factory.”

Explaining her group’s report, IDRA Director Maria "Cuca" Robledo Montecel, said that to keep kids graduating, schools need good leadership and good resources. In other words, top notch principals and adequate funding.

Montecel said Rio Grande Valley schools may be at a greater disadvantage than the rest of the state in acquiring the resources to keep kids in school.

“Historically, border schools get the short-end of equitable funding, because of the way the state's school financing system works,” said Montecel. She said also that urban areas typically have higher drop out rates than rural areas.

“Schools belong to the community,” said Montecel. "They need to be engaged with the community."

The Texas Education Agency office that handles the Valley is Region One Education Service Center. Its spokesperson, Annette Garcia, acknowledged that dropout rates are high in the Valley. She named several programs the educational system has to keep kids in school.

Garcia said that they have the Gear Up project, college-going awareness programs, and the High School Redesign Project, to name a few. Weslaco ISD and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD have the Redesign program and McAllen ISD has plans to initiate the project in the 2008-2009 school year.

"There are so many different factors," she said. "Every program is designed for student success."

Overall, Texas school holding power is worse than it was two decades ago, the IDRA found. In 1986, 33 percent of Texas students didn't graduate from high school. This year, 34 percent of Texas students drop out. A full one-third of high school freshman in Texas will not graduate.

The study found that 134,676 students, who were freshman four years ago, did not graduate this spring. Since the study began in 1986, 2.6 million students who started public high school did not graduate. The study found that 70 percent of those students were Black or Hispanic.

The four key things to keep kids in school, according to Montecel, are competent and caring teachers who are well paid and well supported; consistent ways for schools to partner with parents; getting to know the individual student, who needs to belong to be successful; and a high-quality enriched curriculum that is accessible.

"We must really decide to graduate every student, believe we can and make it happen," Montecel said. She added that a high school diploma is the minimum job requirement these days.

IDRA has used the same methodology to conduct the 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 annual attrition studies include county-level data by race and ethnicity. The trend graphs are available online at

Write Michele Angél

Courtesy of:
Rio Grande Guardian