Tuesday, October 21, 2008

School Holding Power and Attrition: I need to know about these because...

I direct a PIRC: that's a Parent Information Resource Center to you (as if we need one more acronym to learn!). This project, the Texas IDRA PIRC must remind schools to be accountable to families. One important piece of accountability is the school report card required by No Child Left Behind, reflecting Adeqate Yearly Progress (AYP). AYP hinges on the results of a state-required test. But there are other very important aspects of how well schools are doing. The attrition rate IDRA (my organization) has published annually for over 20 years is one such important indicator. We say 'attrition' instead of labeling the issue 'dropouts'. We spotlight the school responsibility as 'holding power'.
The attrition rate – which compares enrollment in the ninth grade with enrollment three years later – is as important as are student test scores in measuring the effectiveness of a school.

If NCLB has school accountability as a priorities for Title 1 Schools (those schools where most of the students come from poor families) and these families are presented with data on the attrition rates of their schools, what actions should these data engender?

1. Schools face the challenge without blaming students and parents;

2. School holding power responses succeed through institutional transformation rather than simply bringing back students that have left and putting them in the same-old, same-old;

3. Family-school partnerships develop positive and pro-active solutions to ensure student success and high school completion; and

4. Moving beyond punitive and siloed classes and campuses toward solutions based on valuing, supporting and having high expectations for students and families.

Concurrent possibilities:
Families take action because they engage in conversations about school accountability.
Meetings and gatherings to examine how schools are doing are opportunities for dialogue and invitations to see the big picture beyond their own children.
Families demonstrate concern about the education of all children.

These conversations (possibilities) exemplify the spirit of Title I parent engagement requirements and have influence far beyond meeting the letter of the law by sending a school report card to individual families. School children, especially those in Title I schools need families and teachers to come together to figure out what will most help them succeed in school.

Yesterday IDRA Released the Texas Public School Attrition Study, 2007-08, “At Current Pace, Schools will Lose Many More Generations of Students.”
The results are in. IDRA’s 2008 Annual Attrition Study for the state of Texas, released today, finds that: Texas schools continue to lose one student every four minutes; One of every three students (33 percent) from the freshman class of 2004-05 left school prior to graduating with a high school diploma. In Texas for 2007-08, 44 percent of Hispanic students, 38 percent of Black students, and 18 percent of White students were lost from public school enrollment. Between 1985-86 and 2007-08, more than 2.8 million secondary students have been lost from public school enrollment in the state.

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