Schools Graduate More
When it comes to the number of students who graduate from its public high schools, Texas is not accustomed to being called a success.
The last time the Texas Supreme Court ruled on the state’s school finance system, in 2005, it warned of a “severe dropout problem,” calling the lagging graduation rates of blacks and Hispanics in the state “especially troublesome.”
Policy makers and school leaders attribute the rise to a variety of programs on the state and district level aimed at keeping students in the classroom. But beyond the anecdotal, very little evidence exists as to why or if these programs are the reason for the state’s success.
Yet even as the latest round of school finance litigation goes to trial this fall, it appears there is reason for optimism about the number of students leaving high school with a diploma. Many Texas school districts, including the state’s two largest, are reporting their third or fourth straight year of rising graduation rates — and the statewide average has climbed steadily since 2007, according to data kept by the Texas Education Agency.
As districts release their 2011 rates, the positive trend appears to be continuing. Austin Independent School District, the state’s fifth largest, reports that its numbers have risen by 6 percentage points since 2008. And Houston I.S.D. and Dallas I.S.D., which have the highest enrollments in the state, say they have improved their rates by 12 points and 14 points, respectively, since 2007.