Friday, July 31, 2009

Historic Coalition Calls for Dropout and Public Education Accountability Reform

          Contact: Enrique Marquez

July 30, 2009          
   Phone:   512/477.6721 x 104

Historic Coalition Calls for Dropout and Public Education Accountability Reform

Austin – Influential Texas business,
civil rights, public policy, and education groups including the Texas Association
of Business (TAB), the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
(MALDEF), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Center
for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP),  the Greater Austin Chamber of
Commerce (GACC), the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SAHCC),
Mothers Against Discriminatory Racism in Education and Society (MADRES),
and the University Leadership Initiative came together today to call upon
the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to take meaningful steps to identify and
address the dropout rate and public education accountability system in

The coalition announced a set of
education opportunities for improvement within the current accountability


a simplified, accurate calculation of the Texas public school dropout rate

standards on minimum skills tests used in current model, which currently
awards “Academically Acceptable” ratings to campuses that pass only fifty
percent of students in science subject areas

the academic performance of English Language Learner (ELL) students on
English language proficiency tests and state standardized tests and other
measures in the state accountability system

to include dropout rate when assessing accountability ratings

awareness that a recent academic evaluation shift to a growth model for
academic evaluation that measures student progress based on projected
future success will cause an inflated spike in accountability ratings

“I am honored to stand with some
of the most influential policy, civil rights and education organizations
in Texas that recognize the transformative power of education,” said TAB
President Bill Hammond. “Tomorrow, TEA Commissioner Robert Scott will
release the accountability ratings, and I am delighted that the dropout
rate will be included in the assessments.  TEA deserves credit for
including the dropout rate, but anyone familiar with the calculation knows
their dropout rate statistics are not accurate. We must create a more transparent
system if we are to move forward in developing a world-class public education
system for our children.”

“The failure to include English
Language Learner students in the accountability system creates an unnecessary
caste system in our Texas public schools,” said MALDEF Legislative Staff
Attorney Luis Figueroa. “If ELL students are to have any hope for a better
education, TEA cannot continue to mask their failure, particularly the
secondary students.”

“The LULAC District Office (District
VII) supports these goals to address the unacceptable levels of high school
dropout rates, especially among Hispanic students, that we have endured
for too many years, too many decades,” said Angel Abitua, LULAC District
Director. “The Hispanic community that we serve in the Greater Austin
area needs to be informed, through a simplified, accurate calculation,
of the ‘true’ picture of the dropout rate.  With true and accurate
accounting, then and only then, we can determine and promote strategies
to help address this problem and help our community overcome the severe
disadvantages that plague our younger generations.”

“Academic progress should certainly
be included in any accountability model,” said Frances Deviney, Texas
KIDS COUNT Director at the CPPP.  “But to use it to inflate the TAKS
passage rates does a disservice to the students and the schools by masking
the true number of kids still struggling to meet the state’s academic
standards and hiding the need for additional efforts and supports."

"The San Antonio Hispanic
Chamber of Commerce is intently focused on the livelihood and prosperity
of the Hispanic community,” said Ramiro Cavazos, President of the SAHCC.
 “Education is the surest means to building a competitive workforce,
and we are asking the TEA to give Texans a clear and accurate picture of
how our youth are faring in our public schools."



  1. This is a powerful and long overdue step forward for our students!

    The most direct way to develop a simplified and accurate calculation of the Texas public school dropout rate is to simply place the Texas school enrollment data by grade, already online at the TEA web site, in a format that calculates raw "uncorrected" dropout rates similar to those used in recent national dropout studies such a the ones from John Hopkins University. (It was "corrections" made in Houston and Dallas that allowed those districts to claim single digit dropout rates in recent years.)

    The TEA web site could easily produce multi-year spreadsheets going back over a decade for every public school and school district in Texas. The only investment needed is some programming to present data already available in a different format. Such a spreadsheet would show student enrollment patterns including the “9th grade bubble” that is common in Texas, and the dramatic loss from that 9th grade number. Texas looses an average of over 35% of 9th grade students before graduation.

    If you google “Dallas” and “dropout” the first hit is a web site,, that goes over this data and shows the statewide enrollment numbers as well as those numbers for Dallas. It also shows a $2 per student dropout program that appears to be helping lower the 9th to 10th grade dropout rate, where most Dallas students are lost, by over 25%! This student motivation program is a simple 10 year time-capsule and class reunion plan with a mentoring component planned at the reunion. Our students can solve this dropout crisis much faster than we can by simply focusing onto their own futures with this simple project.

    Counting the 9th grade cohort dropout percentages accurately will be painful. Numbers in Dallas indicate that we improved 2.5% in our graduation rate this year, up to a 43.5% graduation rate. We were glad to see the improvement, but have a very long way to go! It looks like the next two years Dallas ISD will see similar improvements.

  2. Good article. Bill, Good thoughts as well. I think character education shows real promise in addressing the dropout problem.



  3. Mike, I agree with you fully about the ultimate value of character education. The School Archive Project reinforces and provides the "Why?" of character education. It is not strictly speaking character education. It certainly reinforces and moves students toward behavior of high character through the simple focus onto their own lives, their own story, and their future. It helps lead toward conversations in school that may include what students will be remembered for after their death.

    Nothing can more strongly reinforce character education than such discussion. Bolting a 550-pound vault to the lobby floor under spotlighs in our school to function as the time-capsule for our students letters helps the future become more real. A powerful symbol was created. Once alumni begin to return in November of 2014 to open their letter placed in our vault in May of 2005, we will begin to receive the priceless feedback every year. They will give their recommendations for success talk to our then current 8th grade classes. I look forward to that event and to the wisdom we will hear from our 23-24 year old returning alumni.

    The School Archive Project creates a focus on the future that also helps achieve character education more than anything else we could do for less than $2 per student.

    Thanks for the encouragement! It seems we are heading in the right direction. See for details.