2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Solving the Dropout Crisis

This post is fifth in a series on the education planks of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

This is an unofficial version published in advance of the final version from the Texas Democrats, but I expect very few changes.


Rick Perry may be willing to write off more than a fourth of the school age children in Texas, but Texans can’t afford to pay the price for Perry’s complacency in the face of the dropout crisis. Solving the dropout crisis is a priority for Texas Democrats because it threatens the economic well-being of all Texans, and failure to solve the dropout crisis could write off economic progress for an entire generation. Texas already has more low-wage and minimum wage workers than any other state, and in Texas dropouts earn $7,000 less per year than high school graduates. According to the state demographer, if these trends persist, by 2040, the average annual Texas household income will be $6,500 less than in the year 2000, at a cost to Texas of over $300 billion per year in lost income.

More than one-fourth of Texas high school students fail to graduate on time. For African American and Hispanic students, the dropout rate is more than one-third. Out of all 50 states, Texas has the highest percentage of adults who have not completed high school. However, in response to the Governor’s call for across-the-board budget cuts to address an $18 billion state budget shortfall, his Texas Education Agency recommended cutting programs that have helped keep kids in school and off the street. The economic consequences of such shortsighted policies are stark. Rick Perry’s refusal to address this dropout crisis is making Texas poorer, less educated, and less competitive.

Proper funding of all our schools to meet the needs of students who are most at risk of dropping out is essential. Specific solutions include:

  • school-community collaboration that brings educational and social services together under one roof to help at-risk students and their families;
  • expanded access to early childhood education, targeting at-risk students;
  • dual-credit and early-college programs that draw at-risk students into college and career paths while still in high school;
  • equitable distribution of highly qualified teachers, to change current practices that too often match the most at-risk students with the least experienced and least prepared teachers;
  • enforce daytime curfew laws to reduce truancy;
  • providing access to affordable programs for adults who have dropped out of the education process.
  • One Response to 2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Solving the Dropout Crisis

    1. Bill Betzen says:

      If Bill White were to understand and adopt the following “Texas Dropout Prevention two-step” he may become our next governor a bit more easily, and then really change Texas!

      For the first step in this “Texas Dropout Prevention Two-step” he must help us all to more easily understand how bad the dropout rates are in almost every Texas school. Every school and school district should have a multi-year enrollment by grade spreadsheet, with graduation numbers for each year. When such annually updated spreadsheets going back a decade or more are easy to find for ever school on school district websites we will have a way to easily follow dropout rate fluctuations year to year. Such transparency will initially make people angry, but this gives us a place to start. We can then track progress using this more easily audit-able data with minimal potential for staff manipulation, and at very minimal expense. It only involves placing already collected data into a spreadsheet and online.

      For the second step in the “Texas Dropout Prevention Two-step” he must understand that while the many efforts being tried to lower dropout rates (home visits, daytime curfews, truancy fines, etc…) can help, these efforts should never receive more attention, media time, or human effort than the ultimate goals of education itself: self-improvement.

      Our students must want to stay in school for the right reasons, not because the classroom is an effective detention facility!

      The second step is to focus students on their own futures in as concrete and physical a way as is possible. To achieve this future focus a Dallas middle school started the School Archive Project in 2005. It is a 10-year time capsule and class reunion project. It involves a 350 pound vault bolted to the floor in the school lobby to function as the 10-year time-capsule. It holds letters 8th grade students write to themselves about their history and plans for the future. Students place their letter, and also often a letter from their parents, or a teacher, about their dreams for the student, into one envelope. At the end of the year there is a small ceremony wherein they pose in front of the School Archive vault with their Language Arts class holding their sealed letters for a photo. They then place their letters inside the vault.

      Students receive a copy of this photo with information on the back about their 10-year class reunion. They are reminded that they will be invited at that reunion to speak with then current 8th grade classes about their recommendations for success. They are warned to prepare for questions such as; “Would you do anything differently if you were 13 again?”

      Thinking of answering such a question in 10 years helps students realize the value of current school work. They must build their own futures. Nobody is going to do it for them.

      The first students to write letters for the School Archive graduated in 2009 as members of the largest 12th grade class in over a decade! The Class of 2010 again set graduation rate records!

      This project has now spread to 6 schools within Dallas ISD. It is a simple project helping teachers do what they have always done, focus students onto their own futures.

      At a cost that is about a dollar per child per year, it is a project all schools should be involved in. It only requires one dedicated teacher as project manager who is also interested in motivating their students to write more, to better understand the flow of time and history, and to find more value in education.

      Bill Betzen
      The School Archive Project
      Quintanilla Middle School
      Dallas, Texas


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