The graduation crisis in Texas

has reached a boiling point

with about one-third of the state’s public high school students “more than 120,000 young people failing to graduate with a regular diploma in 2006,” according to a new analysis conducted by the Bethesda, Md.-based Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center.

Seventy percent of all dropouts are minority students, including Black students, who have a statewide graduation rate of just 59.9, and Hispanics, whose rate is 57.8. The figures, calculated by the EPE Research Center using the widely reported Cumulative Promotion Index method, stand in stark contrast to official graduation rates from the Texas Education Agency of 81.1 percent for Blacks and 77.3 percent for Hispanics.

And the problem is worst in large cities where more than half of all students fail graduate according to the report, which cites district-level graduation rates of 46.3 for Dallas, and 48.9 for both Fort Worth and Houston, all of which fall far short of the official TEA figures of 81.3, 76.5 and 71.3, respectively. The EPE Research Center report includes overall and disaggregated graduation data for the 10 largest Texas school districts. A separate online mapping tool from EPE also provides comparable data for every district in the nation.

In some of the largest Texas districts, nearly 60 percent of some minority groups are failing to graduate, including Austin, which has a Hispanic graduation rate of 42.8 percent, Houston (43.3 percent) and Dallas (43.6 percent), according to EPE, which calculates similarly troubling rates for Black students in most cities.

“Nearly every state currently inflates its graduation rates,” said EPE Research Center Director Christopher B. Swanson, “but Texas is a main offender, especially where minority students are concerned. Minority rates are overestimated by 20 points or more. And for students in large cities, graduation rates can be inflated by as much as 35 percentage points.”

According to the EPE Research Center analysis, the Texas rate (66.8) trails the national average of 69.6 percent and ranks 35th among the states. The EPE report was presented at a special conference “The Texas Dropout Crisis and our Children,” held at Rice University in Houston on October 6. At the conference, a collection of national experts and researchers highlighted findings from a range of independent studies that confirm the severity of the dropout situation, suggest its causes and outline potential strategies and policies for improving it. The conference is sponsored by the Rice University Center for Education, CHILDREN AT RISK, The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, and EPE Research Center. More information about the conference is available at http://www.centerforeducation.rice.edu/Research/dropoutconf3.htm.

Freshmen & Boys Most Likely to Drop Out

According to the EPE Research Center, for every 100 Texas students in 9th grade, 84 will remain in the education pipeline until sophomore year, and only 67 of those will earn a regular high school diploma within four years, indicating that fully half of all non-graduates in Texas are lost in the 9th-grade. This pattern mirrors a national trend, but is far more pronounced in Texas.

Male students are also consistently less likely to graduate, with female students enjoying a graduation advantage of over 8 percentage points. Gender gaps exist for all racial and ethnic categories, with the largest difference (13 percentage points) found among black students. Hispanic males are the lowest-performing group, graduating at a rate of less than 53 percent.

Texas has been a majority-minority state for over a decade (non-white students make up more than half of student enrollment). But the EPE Research Center study shows that racial and ethnic minorities have become even more segregated from their white peers over time. Levels of segregation are extremely high in the state’s largest urban districts. The EPE analysis, based on 2002-03 data, found that districts with high levels of racial isolation have graduation rates about 13 percent lower than districts with less extreme levels of segregation.

Powerful Data Tool On the Web

The EPE Research Center will debut a powerful new online mapping service that can produce report cards on graduation rates for every U.S. school district and compare its performance against state and national averages. Produced in collaboration with the Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI, a leading designer and producer of geographical mapping applications, it allows users to zoom in on each of the nation’s individual school districts and create a special report for that district, including a view of ten-year trends, examination of the high school pipeline, and comparisons with state and national figures.

The mapping tool can be accessed on the Research Center’s website at www.edweek.org/rc .

Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center.