AISD is joining KLRU and community partners to raise awareness about dropout rates and to create sustainable solutions to boost high-school readiness,
KLRU, Austin's PBS station, has been awarded a $200,000 American Graduate community service grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is designed to raise awareness in Central Texas about the true costs of our youth leaving school before graduation, as well as efforts conducted in our region to reduce dropout rates.
High school graduation rates are an important indicator of the community’s health, and high dropout rates have serious economic consequences. The E3 Alliance, one of KLRU’s partner organizations, has estimated that the cost of a single class year of dropouts in Central Texas is $435 million.
“The time, energy, and resources we invest now to address this challenge will pay important dividends in the overall social and economic health of our community,” Bill Stotesbery, CEO and general manager of KLRU, said.
Every day, in every school, AISD’s teachers and team members are working to ensure all of students have the support they need to reach their full potential.
The district evaluates the performance and needs of more than 85,000 students and focuses additional resources on students who may be struggling—or who are from communities where poverty and patterns of racial inequality have affected educational opportunities and achievement, Kathy Ryan, interim associate superintendent for high schools, said.
"As educators, we believe if one student does not complete high school, that is one student too many," Ryan said.
AISD graduation rates have reached an all-time high of 84.1 percent for the Class of 2013. This is a 1.6 percentage point increase from the previous year and nearly a 10 percentage point gain during the past five years.
Graduation rates increased for every student population in AISD—across all ethnic groups and for English language learners and economically disadvantaged and special education students.
As state performance standards continue to increase, AISD students are performing exceedingly well and graduating at record rates. The district's target for the Class of 2015 is 88.3 percent.
In Central Texas, the overall graduation rate improved in recent years, climbing steadily from 77 percent in 2007 to 86 percent in 2011.
"However, while this positive trend deserves recognition, it also masks a persistent disparity between different ethnic and economic groups. Graduation rates actually range from a high of more than 90 percent for White and Asian students to 73 percent and 76 percent for Black and Hispanic students, respectively," Ryan said, citing Austin-area research by E3 Alliance.
AISD believes if one student does not complete high school, that is one student too many.
Schools and communities have a special responsibility to offer minority and under-represented students additional support as they challenge stereotypes and navigate adolescence into adulthood. This support could be in the form of mentorship, connecting each student with an adult who champions them, someone they know in is their corner and someone who has their back, Ryan said.
AISD is committed to ensuring all of students have the support they need to succeed. For example, the district has reformed its approach to disciplinary programs because, historically, young men of color had been disproportionately placed in alternative campuses. Last year, the district changed its approach to discretionary removals, which provided more students the opportunity to remain at their home campuses and stay on track for graduation. Since then, the number of discretionary removals from the classroom dropped from 513 in 2011-12 to 207 in 2013-14, a decrease of 60 percent. In AISD, young men of color are performing above the national average, but we know there is more work to be done.
AISD is committed to working to ensure children are school-ready entering kindergarten, are at reading level by age 8, and graduate high school on time on as college- and career-ready, Ryan said AISD recently announced the district has joined My Brother’s Keeper, a national initiative aimed at addressing academic and opportunity gaps for young men of color.
"We expect that together with KLRU and other community partners we can work together to help more children achieve academic success," Ryan said.
KLRU, with the help of their coalition of community partners, will communicate the full scope of the dropout crisis and increase awareness of its contributing factors in Central Texas through programming on KLRU, news stories and events designed to discuss these issues.