Posted on May 10, 2006

There’s a Dropout Crisis in Dallas Public Schools

Jay P. Greene, Dallas Morning News, May 3, 2006

Just about everyone knows that Dallas schools are performing poorly, but sometimes it is useful to remind ourselves exactly how severe the problem really is.

In a new Manhattan Institute study, I estimate that barely half of the students who enter the city’s public schools earn a diploma. Further, Hispanic males are disproportionably likely to suffer from the dropout epidemic. Unless Dallas pursues dramatic reform of its school system, half of its students will be condemned to a life of limited opportunities.

For the class of 2003, the most recent year for which data are available, I calculate that the overall graduation rate in Dallas was only 54 percent. The odds that a student entering the ninth grade in Dallas public schools will earn a regular diploma are hardly better than a coin toss. This horrific graduation rate is low even when compared to other large metro school districts. Of the 100 largest school districts in the United States, Dallas public schools rank 80th in overall graduation rate.

Other large urban school districts, such as Philadelphia and Long Beach, Calif., graduate a substantially higher percentage of their students than does Dallas, though none of these other districts performs particularly well either. Ysleta ISD near El Paso is able to produce a graduation rate of 84 percent despite a similarly high minority student population. Clearly, demography is not destiny. Schools can and should make a difference.

Things are even worse for male students in Dallas, particularly Hispanic males. While 52 percent of Hispanic females graduate, slightly less than the national average, only 39 percent of Hispanic males in Dallas earn a regular diploma, far lower than the national rate (49 percent) and lower than most other major metropolitan school districts.