Why Bill White's dropout attack is unlikely to work
So, measured against its peers, Texas outperforms. That's usually a good sign.
A report from Texas A&M University last year projected that the dropout rate for the class of 2012 will range between 12.2 percent and 22.2 percent. And the U.S. Department of Education, in a report last year, said Texas had a graduation rate of 72.5 percent.
That was below the national average, 73.4 percent, but better than California, Florida and New York.
Meanwhile, while Rick Perry has been governor, Texas has significantly trended downward in the dropout rate used by Bill White in his attack.
Finally, Texas received praise on many fronts by the bipartisan National Governors Association in October 2009.
As teacher and principal incentive pay programs begin to take hold in states such as Colorado, Minnesota, and Texas, states should provide financial bonuses not only for increasing student achievement, but also for decreasing dropout rates.
One approach governors can take is to speak about the importance of high school graduation in their state-of-the-state address. Several governors did exactly this in 2009. For example, Texas Governor Rick Perry highlighted the collective goal of ensuring that "every student graduates from Texas high schools."
To ensure that state investments in dropout prevention strategies are effective, states should target their investments using data and support evaluations of their efforts. For example, Texas launched a 9th-grade transition program in 2009 to provide 8th graders identified as being at risk of dropping out with summer programming followed by increased monitoring and support at the start of 9th grade. The state is conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the program through an external, third party. This evaluation will inform the state’s policymakers as they decide whether and how to move forward with the program.
States can also offer new sources of funding to schools and districts focused on dropout recovery. In 2008, the Texas Education Agency created a Dropout Recovery Pilot Program, making it one of the first statewide efforts to focus specifically on recovering out-of-school youth. The pilot program provides eligible entities with grants to identify and recruit students who have dropped out of Texas public schools. School districts, nonprofit education organizations, and education service centers are eligible to apply for grant funds. The entities receive financial incentives up to $2,000 per student above base state funding, including $250 for each interim student achievement benchmark met, such as earning enough credits to advance to the next grade level. Grantees receive $1,000 for each student who earns a high school diploma, obtains a GED plus college credit, or gains advanced technical credit.
The goal of all high schools is to prepare students for college and careers. Unfortunately, many current high schools are not meeting this goal. To meet the challenge of college and career readiness, states are supporting models that create a direct bridge from high school to postsecondary study. States such as Indiana, North Carolina, and Texas have obtained private financing to create rigorous high school models that focus on college preparedness. The Texas High School Project has created 91 new schools in high-need districts statewide, with an emphasis on urban areas and the Texas-Mexico border. In 2008, more than half of the schools received accountability rankings of "Exemplary" or "Recognized" -- the two highest ratings given by the state.
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