Texas Public School Dropout Rates Surge


Student in graduation Cap | Image by Shutterstock

Texas has been experiencing a massive surge in high school dropout rates over the past few years, according to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), which recorded an almost 34% increase in dropouts between the 2018-2019 school year and the 2020-2021 school year.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas had a high school dropout rate of 1.9%. That rate rose to 2.4% during the 2020-2021 school year. Roughly 46,000 students across the state in grades 7-12 dropped out at some point during the 2020-2021 school alone, TEA reported, per Axios.

Nationwide, public schools lost over 1.3 million students in the same academic year, with some experts blaming the rise in dropouts on the disruption to public education caused by the pandemic.

Zooming in on North Texas, almost 14,000 students from grades 7-12 dropped out last school year, according to Axios.

For its part, Dallas Independent School District (DISD), the biggest school district in North Texas, clocked a dropout rate of about 4% during the 2020-2021 school year, with 2,644 of its students in grades 7-12 dropping out of school, a roughly 18% hike from the 2,243 logged dropouts the previous year.

Dropouts are not the only reason Texas public schools are losing students. Many thousands have recently left the public school system in the state, primarily to receive homeschooling or attend private institutions.

Another factor likely figuring into poorer outcomes for Texas students is the entrenchment of virtual or remote learning, which districts nationwide have only in the last year begun to retreat from.

Bob Sanford, president and CEO of Children at Risk, explained to Fox 26, “When we’re putting everyone in front of a video camera, and there may or may not be any teachers checking on them or any interaction, what we’re seeing is those kids just became completely unengaged.”

Students might have kept their cameras on and were counted as present for lessons, “but really most of those kids just checked out,” Sanford claimed.

To help resolve the fallout from distance learning, Sanford believes the education system needs a complete overhaul.

“We’re going to have to do whatever we can to really get them engaged,” he said.

Surprisingly, despite the challenges virtual teaching imposed on students and teachers during the pandemic, the statewide on-time graduation rate for the class of 2021 was about 90%, roughly the same as the previous year.

However, bigger districts continue to lag behind in this regard. Nearly 20% of DISD’s class of 2021, for instance, failed to graduate in four years, an alarming statistic that does not seem to inspire much confidence in the community.

A recent poll conducted by The Dallas Express, in fact, found that the plurality of respondents cited “mismanagement” as the reason why DISD is one of the worst-performing school districts in the state.

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