2012-11-29 / Front Page

As attrition rates drop, LISD sees need to do more

By Kyle Harris
Bullard News news1@bullardnews.com

A recent study released by the Intercultural Development Research Association showed a decrease in attrition rates for Smith County school districts – dropping 10 percent in the past 10 years – but Lindale ISD Superintendent Stan Surratt believes there’s still some work to be done.

Surratt said although he is proud of the improved numbers for the county, local school districts still have a long way to go.

“I’m sure that many of the students that are shown not to finish our high school programs do complete their education at home school or private school programs and even some that move out of the state and finish high school there,” Surratt said. “Therefore, the data is misleading. The one thing all schools in Smith County can be proud of is that more students are finishing high school successfully.

I hope we continue on the pathway of improvement, where more students are graduating and are college and career ready.”

Lindale provides a myriad of extracurricular programs and career and technology pathways to prepare students for life after high school.

“I find it very disappointing that the number of Hispanics not finishing is so high,” Surratt said. “Probably a great number of those students are choosing home school or private school, or, in our day and age, moving out of state to continue their education. It will be something we look at and evaluate to see if there is anything we can do as a school district to keep those kids in school.”

The attrition rate is the number of students who enter high school together who are not present when that class graduates. The number includes students lost as dropouts, but also includes students who choose homeschooling or transfers to private schools or different states.

Smith County attrition rates have dropped from 39 to 29 percent, where it has remained for three of the past four years. African American percentages have dropped from 44 percent in the 99-00 school year to last year. Hispanics have seen the largest drop from 69 to 45 percent over that time, but are the only of the three ethnic groups studied to show an in- crease from the previous year. Caucasians have dropped from 29 to 19 percent.

While these percentages can be misleading due to the inclusion of all Smith County schools, the downward trend yields promising results for local superintendents.

“This is data we look at to make sure we’re doing anything we can to help keep kids in school,” said Bullard ISD Superintendent Keith Bryant. “It is hard to break down when the numbers are for the whole county, though.”

Smith County schools lost nine less students from 2011-12 to the previous school year, but have lowered that number by 235 since 1999-00.

“It’s not like we analyze this data on a regular basis, because the state has its own system of longitudinal studies for data like this,” said Whitehouse ISD Superintendent Daniel Dupree. “But, overall, from 1999-00 until now, it looks like the numbers improve.”

Dupree said although Hispanic students attrition has increased over the course of the study, those increases can be attributed to more Hispanics moving to Smith County.

Higher education is not a viable option for some high school graduates, some because of monetary reasons and some lack interest in the option. Local high schools have implemented several programs to help maintain these students’ interest in graduation and prepare them for the workforce after graduation.

Both Whitehouse and Bullard schools have credit recovery programs for students who have failed courses. At Bullard High School, students are allowed to work at their own pace to complete the courses, which Bryant said could provide a student the opportunity to complete a year-long course in three months. Both districts also offer a Reach program, providing students an alternative setting to learn.

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