HISD: Graduation rates at record high, dropout rates at record low

July 16, 2012 3:00:19 PM PDT
The Houston Independent School District says it is making good progress when it comes to reducing the number of students dropping out of school.

It is summer break, but at Sharpstown High School a program called Grad Lab is in full operation. It's called credit recovery, which for Angel Escobar means that he's now one course away from getting his high school diploma at age 22.

"I have to say deep down I wanted it," he said. "I just needed a little push."

The push came at Sharpstown. Escobar's age prevented him from joining standard classes. The school's Grad Lab program welcomed him in and he did the rest.

"I know it's something good because I'm in it and I'm somebody who's making a difference."

Programs like this and evening programs called Twilight are said to be among the reasons for HISD's new dropout and graduation statistics. Under a new state accountability system, from 2007 through 2011 the dropout rate district-wide declined by about 10 percent. The graduation rate increased to 78.5 percent -- 14 percent over four years. The number of graduates rose more than 18 percent in the same amount of time.

The reported improvements were seen in all ethnic groups. In 2008, for example African Americans accounted for 20 percent of the dropout numbers and Hispanics for just more than 21 percent. In 2011, those percentages declined to 14.7 and 12 percent respectively.

"This is big news," said HISD Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier. "This is big-time news to see this kind of improvement for our school districts and I think it has major implications for our city."

It's a start. It's not the end. The district plans more retention programs, including starting in the classroom with new literacy initiatives, with extra emphasis on students who speak English as a second language.

Angel Escobar sees the need for that. He's now planning to go to college, perhaps, he says, to study to become educator.

"I thought I'd become a Spanish teacher," he said. "It's a notion I have right now."

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