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Searching for an Accurate Student Dropout Estimate

Accurate dropout statistics are required to fight our dropout crisis, but in Texas, and most of the U.S., such statistics have been illusive. Single digit dropout numbers are common misleading claims made by too many schools. The audiences who hear such numbers rarely, if ever, understand them. Reality is too often closer to what happened to the class of 2008 in DISD. Only 6,102 diplomas were handed out to a class that as 9th graders in 2004-2005 had 14,890 students in their class. That means that 8,788 from that 9th grade class were "missing at graduation."  That means 59% did not graduate from DISD with their class. 

The most solid foundation for an accurate dropout reporting system is a student enrollment by grade spreadsheet covering many years:

Updated
11-25-2009
Student enrollment numbers by grade, & diplomas given annually, during  14 academic years in Dallas ISD: 1996-1997 to 2009-2010 Average change from previous grade since 1996-97

 
1996-97 1997-98 1998-99 1999-00 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-2010 14 yr Avg
Early Education 534 474 433 379 384 537 608 619 713 630 712 504 504 526 540
Pre-K 5,859 6,032 6,327 6,285 6,654 6,919 7,256 7,281 7,248 8,318 8,570 8,635 8,666 8,604 7,332
Kindergarten 13,728 14,123 13,858 13,888 13,527 13,634 13,524 13,381 13,248 13,807 14,013 13,555 13,547 13,411 13,660
First Grade 14,679 14,727 15,375 14,816 14,963 14,637 14,258 14,026 14,102 14,232 14,426 14,633 14,261 14,007 14,510
Second Grade 13,441 13,911 14,187 14,449 14,105 14,265 13,770 13,367 13,299 13,604 13,468 13,714 13,984 13,660 13,802 -4.9%
Third Grade 12,960 13,090 13,517 13,539 13,815 13,662 13,420 12,951 12,565 12,998 13,020 12,854 13,120 13,474 13,213 -4.3%
Fourth Grade 12,723 12,686 12,755 13,084 13,130 13,230 13,031 12,544 12,280 12,118 12,163 12,372 12,171 12,456 12,625 -4.5%
Fifth Grade 12,125 12,381 12,375 12,299 12,602 12,759 12,669 12,262 11,845 12,683 11,780 11,801 11,905 11,836 12,237 -3.1%
Sixth Grade 11,396 11,845 12,171 12,102 11,958 12,280 12,221 12,005 11,541 10,875 11,338 10,511 10,621 10,706 11,541 -5.7%
Seventh Grade 11,119 11,393 11,889 12,337 11,794 11,704 11,791 11,573 11,171 11,240 10,193 10,872 10,143 10,363 11,256 -2.5%
Eighth Grade 10,698 10,468 10,678 11,050 11,708 11,367 11,223 11,190 10,929 10,936 10,769 9,921 10,519 10,034 10,821 -3.9%
Ninth Grade 14,058 14,916 14,838 14,421 14,566 15,096 15,314 14,486 14,890 14,680 14,079 13,637 12,807 12,313 14,293 32.1%
Sophomores 8,807 8,389 8,895 8,998 9,250 9,638 9,771 9,701 9,173 9,821 9,441 9,561 9,535 9,652 9,331 -34.7%
Percent of last yrs 9th grade in 10th 59.7% 59.6% 60.6% 64.1% 66.2% 64.7% 63.3% 63.3% 66.0% 64.3% 67.9% 69.9% 75.4% 65.0%
 
Juniors 7,063 7,339 6,554 6,993 7,265 7,708 8,033 8,261 7,909 8,064 8,212 8,051 8,195 8,434 7,720 -17.3%
Seniors 5,743 5,945 6,138 5,941 5,949 6,307 6,458 6,937 7,114 7,238 6,960 7,183 7,374 7,675 6,640 -14.0%
9th to 12th grade Promotion Rate 42.26% 39.88% 42.51% 44.78% 47.62% 47.13% 47.26% 48.05% 48.24% 50.23% 54.51% 46.59%
 
Diplomas given 5,380 5,659 5,509 5,837 6,008 6,532 6,696 7,080 6,832 6,343 5,874 6,102 6,383
 
6,172 -7.1%

 
1996-97 1997-98 1998-99 1999-00 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 11 yr Avg
 

 
The CPI (Cumulative Promotion Index), below, is a measurement of student attrition, within one given school year, adding up 4 transitions to the next school year or graduation: 9th/10th, 10th/11th, 11th/12th and 12th/graduation.
 

 
CPI rate calculation 39.2% 37.1% 38.8% 43.3% 48.3% 46.8% 48.0% 45.4% 51.0% 40.7% 42.8% 46.6% 54.0%
 
44.0%
 

 
9th grade Cohort Graduation Rate, below, reports student attrition over the previous 4 high school years for one graduating 9th grade class, and the percentage of that 9th grade class actually graduating in 4 years.
 

 
9th grade Cohort Graduation Rate for this year's graduating class 41.5% 40.3% 44.0% 46.4% 48.6% 45.3% 41.4% 40.5% 41.0% 43.5%
 
43.4%
 
Total Enrollment 154,933 157,719 159,990 160,581 161,670 163,743 163,347 160,584 158,027 161,244 159,144 157,804 157,352 157,151 159,521
 

 
1996-97 1997-98 1998-99 1999-00 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 11 yr Avg
 
Most data is from http://www.tea.state.tx.us/adhocrpt/Standard_Reports.html
 

 

 

To help check the data and formulas used in the above spreadsheet, updated 11-25-09, here is a link to an Excel copy. The updates made on 11-25-09 were made with current 2009-2010 enrollment data uploaded by DISD the morning of 11-20-09 to the www.dallasisd.org web site.  (This was three weeks after the normal "official annual enrollment" was drawn that is sent to TEA as the annual count. There was a difference of about 20 students in the total count so this data is about 99.99% accurate to the final numbers that will be uploaded to the TEA site.) This data was then downloaded to update this spreadsheet, and others on these pages, from the https://portal.dallasisd.org/mydata/ web address by going to the "Current enrollment statistics" link found there.
A second updated spreadsheet, with information on each of the 21 DISD High Schools designated as "Dropout Factories" in 2007, can be uploaded here. 

The above spreadsheet was neither an official Dallas ISD, nor TEA, compilation of the data.

It is recommended that spreadsheets like those above be placed on every school district web site both for the district and for each school. Simple enrollment counts by grade are all that is needed. They are easier to check and verify. In Texas the information needed, except for graduation numbers by school, can be pulled from the Texas Education Agency web site at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/adhocrpt/Standard_Reports.htmlThis has been done with enrollment numbers from 21 Dallas ISD high schools.  A positive pattern of progress since 1999 is shown. See www.studentmotivation.org/dallasisd.

With this data the following four calculations were made for each class for which data was available. (See the data outlined in red in the spreadsheet above.)

  1. The Percentage of last years 9th grade enrolled in 10th is critical for predicting final dropout rates.

  2. The 9th to 12th grade Promotion Rate was the rate used in the 2007 John Hopkins University "Dropout Factory" Study. Any school with a three year average below 61% was given the "Dropout Factory" title. All 21 DISD non-magnet high schools qualified based on data from the classes of 2004, 2005, & 2006.

  3. The Percentage of 9th grade enrollment who graduated with their class (9th Grade Cohort Graduation Rate) is to become the nationally used measurement.

  4. While the 9th Grade Cohort Graduation Rate reflects attrition for each graduating class spread out over their 4 years in high school and the four transitions they go through, the Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI)  reports on the same 4 necessary transitions toward graduation (9th to 10th, 10th to 11th, 11th to 12th, & 12th to graduation) but concentrates them all in one scholastic year. The CPI is therefore a more timely reflection of what is happening in any given scholastic year in a school or school district due to changes made.

The above chart shows the progress DISD has made over the past 4 years in starting to lower our high school dropout rate. The percentage of 9th grade enrollment who graduate with their class, and are reflected in the number of diplomas given out, should go above 50% with the graduation for the Class of 2011, if not the Class of 2010!


First Grade 14567
Second Grade 13806
Third Grade 13231
Fourth Grade 12704
Fifth Grade 12344
Sixth Grade 11794
Seventh Grade 11473
Eighth Grade 11001
Ninth Grade 14668
Sophomores 9262
Juniors 7582
Seniors 6430
Diplomas given 6159

 

The above enrollment numbers amount to a 9th grade cohort graduation rate from 1997-2007 of about 43.8% for Dallas ISD.

In 2007 a student dropout study was released by The Center for Social Organization of Schools at John Hopkins University. It showed that one out of every 10 high schools in the US was a "dropout factory" with less than 60% of freshmen still enrolled senior year with their classmates in the graduating classes of 2004, 2005, and 2006. Sadly all 21 of the Dallas ISD non-magnet high schools made this "dropout factory" list! A report on those 21 Dallas ISD schools is linked here.  The complete list of all 1,700 schools designated as "dropout factories" is also online at  http://web.jhu.edu/CSOS/images/ListofSchoolswithaWeakThreeYearAveragePromotingPowerRatio.pdf. The above Dallas ISD student enrollment spreadsheet reinforces this tragic listing of all Dallas ISD high schools.  It shows the same statistics with only a 2% difference in calculations for the 56.2% of ninth graders who do not graduate with their classmates according to the above Dallas ISD spread sheet.


All Texas Schools

Enrollment numbers for all the state of Texas, seen in the spreadsheet below, show a statewide 9th grade cohort graduation rate average of only 64.9% for the graduation classes of 2001-2007. This statistic is verified by several studies including Texas School Holding Power Worse than Two Decades Ago  published in 2007 by the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) which is described on their web site as "an independent, private non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening public schools to work for all children."


The following spreadsheet is very similar to the above spreadsheet on Dallas ISD data except that it covers the entire state of Texas.

11 yr Avg
Early Education 23,955
Pre-K 156,025
Kindergarten 318,334
First Grade 338,080
Second Grade 328,448
Third Grade 324,574
Fourth Grade 320,403
Fifth Grade 319,798
Sixth Grade 318,352
Seventh Grade 321,749
Eighth Grade 316,862
Ninth Grade 372,760
Sophomores 300,011
Juniors 263,778
Seniors 237,009
Diplomas given 225,766

The bar chart above was created from the annual enrollment averages above taken from the spreadsheet below for all students in Texas for the academic years from 1997-1998 to 2007-2008.  To help check the calculations in this spreadsheet, or to do other calculations, here is a link to an Excel copy of the spreadsheet below.

Student enrollment numbers by grade & diplomas given annually for 11 academic years in all of Texas: 1997-1998 to 2007-2008 Average enrollment change 1996-07 from previous grade/row above
Updated 5-24-08 1997-98 1998-99 1999-00 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 11 yr Avg
Early Education 20,218 20,233 20,919 22,133 24,315 26,242 27,571 28,087 25,650 24287 23852 23,955
Pre-K 121,999 123,859 125,616 132,870 147,324 157,498 166,579 176,547 182,293 187,824 193,869 156,025
Kindergarten 289,982 290,663 291,055 294,591 302,884 315,297 323,502 333,928 350,108 352,969 356,694 318,334
First Grade 313,385 319,107 320,344 321,045 323,153 329,791 338,727 345,666 359,210 372,470 375,984 338,080
Second Grade 307,298 309,514 313,899 317,134 319,257 320,627 325,943 334,127 344,603 353,727 366,802 328,448 -2.8%
Third Grade 300,139 308,059 311,320 316,749 320,097 321,452 323,373 326,897 340,635 346,237 355,351 324,574 -1.2%
Fourth Grade 297,029 301,608 308,367 313,913 318,856 321,616 321,788 324,366 329,946 340,472 346,470 320,403 -1.3%
Fifth Grade 296,183 299,476 303,242 311,770 317,329 322,152 324,046 323,603 337,068 337,161 345,753 319,798 -0.2%
Sixth Grade 298,033 300,320 303,580 308,514 317,586 323,070 327,093 328,664 323,962 334,468 336,583 318,352 -0.5%
Seventh Grade 303,371 303,999 306,376 310,831 316,267 325,150 329,560 332,916 338,827 331,513 340,429 321,749 1.1%
Eighth Grade 292,711 299,837 300,929 304,538 310,702 316,731 324,316 329,095 335,708 338,342 332,576 316,862 -1.5%
Ninth Grade 348,093 350,864 359,493 360,857 364,441 372,396 375,358 383,447 392,051 396,270 397,085 372,760 17.6%
Sophomores 270,634 273,262 275,373 287,472 292,352 299,577 309,187 311,091 322,817 326,335 332,017 300,011 -19.5%
Percent of last yrs 9th grade in 10th 78.5% 78.5% 80.0% 81.0% 82.2% 83.0% 82.9% 84.2% 83.2% 83.8% 81.7%  
Juniors 234,187 240,860 243,738 248,692 260,228 265,523 267,682 274,896 281,366 289,962 294,422 263,778 -12.1%
Seniors 207,226 212,773 217,977 220,324 226,177 238,699 243,303 247,314 256,799 262,905 273,606 237,009 -10.1%
Diplomas given 197,186 203,393 212,925 215,316 225,167 238,109 244,165 239,716 240,485 241,193 n/a 225,766 -4.7%
  1997-98 1998-99 1999-00 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 11 yr Avg  
9th grade Cohort Graduation Rate 61.9% 64.2% 66.2% 67.7% 65.8% 64.6% 64.3% n/a 64.9%
 
Total Enrollment 3,900,488 3,954,434 4,002,228 4,071,433 4,160,968 4,255,821 4,328,028 4,400,644 4,521,043 4,594,942 4,671,493 4,260,138 4,260,138
Above data is from Texas Education Agency web site at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/adhocrpt/Standard_Reports.html.
These enrollment numbers above are all taken from the Texas Education Agency web site that is linked above. Below are dropout rate calculations taken from these numbers which do not allow for transfers out of DISD, transfers into DISD, nor other valid student movements. See an Excel copy of this spreadsheet, linked above, that allows study of these calculations made with the TEA numbers.
The Dropout Rate calculated as the percent of the original 9th grade enrollment missing at graduation:
Percent missing from 9th grade enrollment for each graduating class: The Dropout Rate 38.1% 35.8% 33.8% 32.3% 34.2% 35.4% 35.7% n/a 35.1%
 

To help check the calculations in the above spreadsheet covering all the students in Texas here is a link to an Excel copy.


The above student enrollment spreadsheets give an image of student movement over time that cannot be ignored. It also cannot be as easily manipulated as current "student tracking systems" for which taxpayers are investing millions of dollars. It presents a generally much more accurate indication of the true dropout picture within any school district at next to no cost. The only exception to this accuracy is if there are great population fluctuations in excess of 3% in any year. The green cells at the bottom of the spreadsheets have the 9th grade cohort graduation rate which the nation is moving to accept as the standard dropout rate definition. These numbers taken from simple enrollment numbers do NOT allow for the tracking of students.  This weakness must be remembered for this method of looking at the dropout picture, especially in a school district with annual student enrollment fluctuations close to, or over, 3%.

The historical chart to the left is the history of the Texas dropout rate, updated in 1999, and covering the decade up to the first year in the above spreadsheet.  According to this chart by TEA, the dropout rate in Texas had been cut to much less than 1/3 of what it had been in 1988 by 1998.  There are many questions in the search for accurate data as to what data was actually used to create this chart, copied to the left, in 1999. This chart and the record keeping on dropout rates in Texas is presented and discussed by Professor Walt Haley of Boston College in The Myth of the Texas Miracle in Education, Part 7, published in 2000, all of which is published online.

The Dallas ISD class of 2006 had 15,314 students in the 9th grade, in 2002/2003. During the next 4 years Dallas ISD reported 11% of the class, or 1,693 students, dropped out. In 2006 diplomas were given to 6,343 students, about 41.4% of the original 9th grade class. That leaves 7,278 students, or 47.5% of the original 9th grade class for the class of 2006, who are in other than graduate or dropout categories. In 2006 DISD staff were still speaking of dropout rates below 2%. It appears that some of the issues Professor Haley discussed in The Myth of the Texas Miracle in Education were still normal practice in Dallas. Until basic enrollment by grade spreadsheets like the one above are available on every school district web site, the public will have no way to know the truth of the situation when district staff speak about dropout rates.

We must have a more transparent and accurate accounting for our students. The truth of numbers coming from our multi-million dollar student tracking systems must be verifiable through other numbers and systems easily available to the public. Do the numbers add up?

Here again are links to Excel copies of the above spreadsheets on Dallas ISD as well as the entire state of Texas for additional work you may want to do with these numbers. Any notice of errors is especially welcomed. Please email information on any errors noted on these pages to Bill Betzen at bbetzen@aol.com. Accuracy is critical!


The above graph is an illustration of the relation of the number of enrolled seniors in Dallas ISD and the number of diplomas reported as granted to that class. It is correct that for the years 2001 through 2004 there were more diplomas granted than there were seniors reported as enrolled. Since then there has been a rapid drop in the percentage of seniors who have received diplomas.


Progress retaining students is documented
and the Archive Project is spreading.

An over 26% reduction in the dropout rate between the 9th and 10th grade was achieved since 2005. This happened at the two major high schools receiving Archive Project students and is based on current enrollment numbers as of the end of September, 2008 as provided by staff at each school.

Most dropouts never enroll in the 10th grade.  In Dallas ISD only an average of 64% of 9th graders make it successfully to the 10th grade. In the two high schools attended by most Archive Project students, two of the higher dropout rate high schools in Dallas ISD, the percentage of 9th graders enrolling in the 10th grade had averaged only 60.9% for the four years before the Archive Project started. In the four years since 2005, the percentage of 9th graders making it to enroll in the 10th grade has risen from 60.9% for the four years before 2005-2006 to 71.9% for the 2008-2009 school year at Pinkston and Sunset high schools in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas.  That also means that the 9th to 10th grade dropout/attrition rate has gone down over 26%! It went from a loss of 39.6% of 9th graders down to a loss of 28.1% in 2008-2009 for both high schools combined!  

The causes for this dramatic improvement needs to be verified.  Indications are that the School Archive Project is probably the most significant factor in this progress.

Ninth grade enrollments are normally inflated in most Texas high schools due to retention and students stuck in the 9th grade, taking 9th grade two or more times. (See the 11 year Texas enrollment chart and the 11 year Dallas ISD enrollment chart for illustration.) This factor, combined with the dropout rate, leads to a significant enrollment number decrease from 9th to 10th grade. From 1998 to 2008 an average of only 81.7% of 9th graders in Texas made this promotion with their class successfully.  In Dallas from 1998 to 2008 only 64% of Dallas ISD 9th graders made this promotion with their class successfully.

The average 9th to 10 grade promotion rate at Pinkston and Sunset high schools has now grown from an average of 60.9% (2001 to 2005) to 71.9% in 2008-2009. These are the high schools attended by the majority of Archive Project students who make up about 40% of the enrollment at these two high schools. (The spreadsheet with annual numbers upon which these figures and calculations are made is linked here. An Excel format copy of that same spreadsheet is linked here so the numbers may be manipulated and more easily verified.)

Sunset and Pinkston were two of the higher dropout rate high schools in Dallas ISD. Of the 41 high schools in Dallas ISD, according the Dropout Factory listing by John Hopkins University, for the graduation classes of 2004 through 2006 there were only 8 Dallas ISD high schools with dropout rates higher than Sunset, and only three with dropout rates higher than Pinkston.  If this lowering of dropout rates continues, then Pinkston and Sunset will be among the Dallas ISD schools with the highest graduation rates and lowest dropout rates by 2010!

If this improvement can be verified as being affected by, or resulting mostly due to that percentage of students who are from Quintanilla, then we have more evidence that the Archive Project is having a even more positive effect on the lowering of the dropout rate.

The chart below clearly shows how the 9th grade enrollment is decreasing as more students pass on to the 10th grade without failing the 9th grade.  Then, each year, the 10th, 11th, and 12th grade enrollments are going up at each of these high schools as their dropout rates fall!

Something good is definitely happening at Sunset and Pinkston! They are well on their way toward achieving, and exceeding, a 50% graduation rate, a goal all of Dallas ISD must achieve. This improvement by two of the formerly worst dropout rate high schools in Dallas ISD, now on their way to having among the best graduation rates in Dallas ISD, is progress to be celebrated, researched, and expanded. (As this is written, staff at Sunset are considering a modification of the Archive Project so that a similar project can be started at Sunset High School. They would have a school archive installed for letters written by seniors just before graduation. The focus on goals would continue!)


All enrollment numbers on these pages, unless otherwise noted, are from the TEA web site at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/adhocrpt/Standard_Reports.html

A compilation of the last decades enrollment numbers for the Arlington ISD is attached here.

Please send questions or concerns about anything on these pages, especially errors seen, to Bill Betzen at bbetzen@aol.com.
Page last updated 12/25/2009 09:17 AM 

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