Harris County TX: 1 in 3 Leave School Without a Diploma

The Texas research and advocacy nonprofit, Children at Risk, has released a new analysis of the average graduation rates for Harris County public schools and has shown that while graduation in high school has increased over the last ten years, black and Hispanic students and those from low-income families graduate at much lower rates than their Anglo, Asian and more affluent classmates, writes Ericka Mellon at Chron.com.

Children at Risk uses an alternative method to calculate the graduation rates than the Texas Education Agency (TEA). And this has led to a difference in results – under the Children at Risk formula, the schools are graduating far fewer students than what official state rates claim.

For example, Children at Risk graduation rates puts Houston Independent School District’s graduation rate 14 points lower than the state rate, at 60.2 percent.

Bob Sanborn, the president of Children at Risk, said his researchers aren’t keen on the state method as it doesn’t require districts to gather proof that students are leaving for the reasons the school say. When a student is leaving the system to go into private or home schooling, or move out of the state, the state technically doesn’t count them as dropouts.

But to Sanborn, it doesn’t make sense that so many students would leave the public school system after their freshman year. As typically, students would leave the public school system earlier.

Sanborn suspects that students could be dropping out because they don’t think they can pass the state’s exit-level exams – Private schools don’t require these tests.

TEA and district officials are adamant that the agency’s method is legitimate. Its system is based on a federal formula from the National Center for Education Statistics that is used by several other states.

Spring Branch ISD Superintendent Duncan Klussmann, doesn’t believe Children at Risk has got it right:

“I think they have missed the mark. It is misleading to call a student who withdraws to be homeschooled, attend a private school, or moves outside the state of Texas, a dropout. Only a student who does not complete his or her schooling should be referred to as a dropout. According to the Texas Education Agency, Northbrook High School has a 84.1 percent 4-year completion rate. My oldest child graduated from Northbrook High School a year and a half ago, and I know what a great place Northbrook is for students to learn.”

Children at Risk refutes the 84.1 percent that the TEA claims Northbrook has. According to Children at Risk the number is actually 52.4 percent.

This comes as a recent analysis from the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center and Education Week, found that Texas, like many other states, undercounts dropouts.