Bill White is recycling Hutchison's attacks on Perry

Jared Janes in McAllen's Monitor:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White criticized Gov. Rick Perry for a high school dropout rate in Texas that White says hampers economic growth.

The gubernatorial hopeful said 30 percent of Texas high school students don't graduate within four years, limiting the state's workforce pool.

That sounded awfully familiar to me. It was a common theme for Hutchison's speeches.
She said she wants to move to Austin to combat a 30 percent high school drop out rate that imperils Texas' ability to attract next-generation jobs.
It's not true. Although I've been critical of Politipinion, they published solidly researched report.
First, researchers and governments have many different ways of measuring how many students leave school before graduating. Analyzing different data with different methods yields statistical results that vary -- a lot. To add to the confusion, any of those measurements might be termed the "dropout" rate in public discourse, depending on who is wielding the terminology.

Hutchison's campaign pointed us to several news stories that quoted the nonprofit Intercultural Development Research Association in San Antonio, which has its roots in the legal fight for school funding equity.

In other words, not exactly a disinterested just-the-facts group, but one with a predisposition to see things negatively. Politipinion's summary:
Our conclusion? If you ask how many Texas students drop out of school, you'll get wildly different answers. In our own analysis, we found dropout rates that range from 3 percent (the one-year rate) to 33 percent (the attrition rate), and each one had its defenders.

Hutchison's dropout reference is based on student attrition, a simplistic measurement that is not the way the state prefers to count dropouts but is nevertheless accepted by some experts.

To quote Janes again:
A study released last year by Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service projected the dropout rate for the class of 2012 to be 12.2 percent to 22.2 percent -- or 40,519 to 73,692 students -- using the various measures.
Nonetheless, since Hutchison used this line of attack for awhile, lowering the drop out rate is something we can all agree on. Surely Bill White has a plan to lower the dropout rate, right?, according to Gary Scharrer's reporting.

White, the son of public school educators, conceded there is no single or easy answer to the problem.

"You need to start early with early childhood education," he said. "You need to offset summer learning loss (programs) for those elementary school kids who do not have access to books and computers at home during the summer. You need to have more flexible programs that accommodate and support those students in their attempt to graduate who must work when they are in high school."

I got 3 things out of that: 1) spend more money on early childhood education, 2) do something about summer learning loss, and 3) flexible programs to keep kids in school.

That's not really a serious proposal, it's a few off-the-cuff suppositions. Bill White's supporters continually impute that the former mayor is a first-order wonk, but if so, where's the beef?

Spending more money on early childhood education is theoretically a great thing, but if I recall correctly, most studies show gains evaporating long before students make it to high school. In other words, it probably makes more sense to make the schools that we have work before adding more years of ineffective schooling. In a world of limited resources, we need to choose programs that work.

As to summer learning loss, if I recall correctly studies fairly solidly show that the loss over the summer is mostly felt by students from low-income households. The only thing likely to have any impact is year-round schooling, and while 10-year-old-Evan can't believe what he is hearing from me, it's probably something worth looking at because it might actually be effective, especially in some school districts. And improving education for the poor would be HUGE. But of course, White didn't propose that. And let's be honest, anything short of that isn't going to change anything.

As for flexible programs to keep kids in school? Scharrer reports that Perry already proposed that:

Perry advocates "virtual high schools" to keep students in school.

"Give them the flexibility to be able to stay in high school. And I really like the idea of using the incentive that if you are of high school age and you are not either in a bricks-and-mortar or a virtual high school that you will not get a driver's license. It will be directly connected to whether or not you are in a school working toward getting that diploma," Perry said.

I remember Paul Burka arguing that this was a horrible proposal. I'm not convinced: it's an attempt to keep would-be dropouts within the system, and hopefully funnel them into virtual high school which help them make progress towards a GED. I think whether it turns out well or bad would largely depend on the incentives given. But it is a more serious proposal to combat the dropout rate than anything that Bill White has proposed to date.

Posted by Evan @ 04/09/10 12:56 AM


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Why would getting a GED be considered comparable to completing high school and earning a diploma? Why would school admins and elected officials consider this equal to a graduation?

The kids "drop out" and then go on to get a GED? What am I missing?

There is no way the real completion rate is close to 90% as Perry has claimed.

Posted by LucasL @ 04/09/10 08:54 AM

General Equivalency Degree.

It's definitionally supposed to be equivalent.

Posted by Rick Perry vs World @ 04/09/10 10:15 AM

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