DISD Dropouts Rise, On-Time Graduations Trend Downward

DISD Dropouts Rise, On-Time Graduations Trend Downward
Hands holding graduation caps | Image by Shutterstock

Dallas Independent School District’s (DISD) dropout rate has been surging in recent years, while its on-time graduation rate has been sinking, according to an accountability report published by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

The district clocked a dropout rate of 4.5% in grades 9-12 for the 2020-2021 academic year, an increase of 0.6% from the previous year, with some 1,935 high school students dropping out of school.

The 2019-2020 academic year, however, had also seen a 0.6% increase in the dropout rate over 2018-2019, meaning that there was a roughly 36% increase in dropouts in the class of 2021 than in the class of 2019.

DISD on-time graduation rates, for their part, have been trending in the opposite direction in the same time period.

Only 85.4% of the district’s graduating class of 2019 earned their diplomas on time. The class of 2020 did worse, with only 82.8% graduating on time, and the rate dipped further the following year, with only 81.8% of the class of 2021 completing their high school education within the typical four years.

It would be reasonable to assume that the increase in dropouts and decline in on-time graduation rates might have something to do with the disruptions to education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic: Temporary school closures and the corresponding pivot to remote learning led to widespread learning loss among students across the country, as previously reported in The Dallas Express.

To be sure, the pandemic did spur an increase in dropouts nationwide. However, its impact on graduation rates seems somewhat benign.

Data analysis conducted by Brookings on the graduating classes of 2019 and 2020 shows that national graduation rates were largely unaffected by the pandemic.

“In short, the total number of high school degrees, summing across the two COVID-19 graduating classes, looks to be very similar to what it likely would have been without the pandemic,” Brookings authors Douglas Harris and Feng Chen wrote.

It is unclear what accounts for DISD’s alarming trajectory when it comes to student outcomes, especially when compared to Houston Independent School District, a similarly-sized school system with on-time graduating rates trending upwards, according to TEA reports.

The Dallas Express reached out to DISD and asked the district for an explanation for its downturn in graduation rates and the alarming spike in dropouts.

A spokesperson said DISD was not prepared to make an official statement at press time.

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