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Dallas has the highest dropout rate in the Nation

This April 2, 2008 Dallas Morning News article had a listing of US cities with the lowest graduation rate. In that list Dallas is listed as seventh from the bottom.  If you eliminate all cities of less than a million population from that list, Dallas is at the bottom of the list.  Dallas has the highest dropout rate in the nation for cities over a million in population! The original list is copied at the bottom of this page with population numbers given.  - Bill Betzen

Report: Dallas ISD's dropout rate is 7th worst in nation

12:20 AM CDT on Wednesday, April 2, 2008
By TERRENCE STUTZ and TAWNELL D. HOBBS / The Dallas Morning News

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced Tuesday that she will require all states to use the same formula to determine how many of their students graduate from high school on time and how many drop out.

Also Online

Graphic: 10 best, worst graduation rates in U.S. cities (A copy of this listing is also copied at the bottom of this article. - BB)

She said she is taking the unprecedented action of setting a national standard because the dropout problem has become a "silent epidemic" masked by inconsistent and incomplete data reporting systems in the states.

Her announcement came as a Washington nonprofit reported alarmingly low graduation rates in many of the nation's largest urban districts, including Dallas, which was listed as having the seventh-worst graduation rate among school systems in the 50 largest cities.

The study, issued by America's Promise Alliance, indicated that Dallas had a graduation rate of 44.4 percent in 2004, a figure that was a fraction of the official graduation rate of 80.8 percent reported for that year by the state and school district.

State officials attributed the huge gap to different methods of computing the graduation and dropout rates, noting that the state implemented a more stringent data reporting formula last year. The new formula showed lower graduation rates of 68.8 percent for Dallas and 80.4 percent for Texas for the 2005-06 school year, the most recent year data are available.

The Texas Education Agency tightened the counting system in response to claims it had underestimated the state's dropout problem. Ms. Spellings did not say Tuesday what counting method her department will require, but the new standards could mean Texas will have to change its formula again.

Improving the graduation rate is a major component of the Dallas Independent School District's Dallas Achieves reform initiative. DISD's goal is to boost the graduation rate to well above 90 percent by the end of the decade, while also raising scores on state tests and SAT tests.

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa did not return calls for comment on Tuesday, but through his spokesman said Dallas would continue using a formula that was started under the reform effort.

"We want to be able to compare apples to apples and changing criteria is just going to confuse the issue," said Dallas school district spokesman Jon Dahlander.

Bill Betzen, a teacher at Quintanilla Middle School in Dallas, was ecstatic with the move to shift to a uniform formula for determining graduation rates. Mr. Betzen, who teaches computers, has studied the dropout situation in Dallas for years and has a Web site dedicated to his research.

"It's a step in the right direction," Mr. Betzen said. "Hopefully, we'll realize how bad the problem is and we'll start to work on it."

Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, said state officials also would welcome a uniform standard for determining graduation rates as long as it is based on actual rather than estimated numbers.

"We think it's a good idea and believe that Texas is ahead of the curve on this," she said. She added that the state's new counting method was developed by the National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Education.

Ms. Spellings said she will mandate that the new dropout data be made public so that parents and taxpayers can compare how students of every race, background and income level are performing.

"By shining a light on which students drop out, when and where, we will not only better diagnose the dropout crisis, we'll be on our way to ending it," she said.

Paul Pottinger, co-director of the Attendance Improvement Management Program at Bryan Adams High School in Dallas, said people who work in dropout prevention programs know that official dropout estimates are too low.

"It's an epidemic, but we don't treat it like an epidemic," he said. "People simply aren't aware of how big the problem is. It's worse than people think. The numbers are understated – well understated. The question is, why have they been understating the numbers for so long when the truth is so obvious?"

However, Ms. Ratcliffe of the TEA contends that the America's Promise Alliance study was based on "attrition" rates where researchers basically compared the number of high school graduates in given year with the number of ninth-graders four years earlier.

By contrast, she said, Texas tracks where students go when they withdraw from one high school so that they are not counted as dropouts if they simply move to another district or move out of state. Urban districts, in particular, have high student mobility rates, she noted.

"We absolutely agree there is a dropout problem and that the dropout rate is too high no matter how you calculate it. But we have confidence in our numbers because we now track our students from grade to grade," she said.

Critics say there are potential flaws in the current system because it depends on school districts providing correct information to the TEA and on parents giving truthful answers to local school officials on why their children have withdrawn from a particular school.

In Fort Worth, Superintendent Melody Johnson said her district has taken a community-wide approach to dealing with the dropout problem that involves enlisting help from the business community and Chambers of Commerce.

For example, she said, the business community has been asked to not employ fulltime school-age children who are not in school and not allow students to work after 10 p.m.

She said the proposed national formula for dropout rates is definitely needed.

"I think it's very misleading to the general public to have so many definitions," Dr. Johnson said. "We need something that is reasonable and consistent."

Staff writer Kent Fischer contributed to this report.

Graduation rates

Below are graduation rates in the 2005-06 school year for several Dallas-area districts and statewide calculated by the Texas Education Agency. It shows the percentage of students who were ninth-graders in 2002 who graduated as seniors in the Class of 2006.
District Graduation


Arlington 78.7%
Carrollton-FB 82.3%

Dallas       (In 2005-06 the Dallas ISD gave out 6,343 diplomas.  When the class of 2006 was in the 9th grade in 2002-03 there were 15,314 students enrolled. Diplomas were given out to approximately 41.4% of this 9th grade number. This means 4193 graduating students are missing based on the 68.8% number given by TEA.-BB)

Fort Worth 77.2%
Garland 87%
Grand Prairie 71.4%
Irving 80.5%
Lewisville 90.9%
Mesquite 87.6%
Plano 92.3%
Richardson 86.3%
TEXAS 80.4%

Graphic: 10 best, worst graduation rates in U.S. cities is also copied below.
The population numbers inserted and are as
estimated by the United States Census Bureau on July 1, 2006.

Making it through high school

This shows the cities with the highest and lowest graduation

rates in the 2003-04 school year, as calculated in a report on

dropouts in the country’s 50 largest cities. Dallas ISD was the

only Texas district ranked in the bottom 10. The report used a

formula for calculating graduation rates that is more stringent

than the one used by the Texas Education Agency.

School district State

TOP 10

Mesa Unified Arizona 77%

San Jose Unified California 77%

Nashville-Davidson Co. Tennessee 77%

Colorado Springs Colorado 76%

San Francisco Unified California 73%

Tuscon Unified Arizona 72%

Seattle Public Washington 68%

Virginia Beach City Public Virginia 67%

Sacramento City Unified California 67%

Hawaii Department of Education Hawaii 64%


Oakland Unified California 46%

Los Angeles Unified California 45%

New York City Public New York 45%

Dallas ISD Texas 44%                     1,232,940 population

Minneapolis Public Minnesota 44%          372,833

Columbus Public Ohio 41%                     733,203

Baltimore City Public Maryland 35%        640,961

Cleveland Municipal Ohio 34%                444,323

Indianapolis Public Indiana 31%                785,597

Detroit City Michigan 25%                        918,849

NOTE: Principal school districts in the nation’s 50 largest cities

SOURCE: Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, The Associated Press  (Population numbers inserted by Bill Betzen.)

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