HISD Works To Keep Kids In School

HISD officials say the district's dropout rate has fallen about nine and a half percent since 2006.  The graduation rate is up ten percent.  The list of students who haven't returned to school is smaller than in recent years.  It stands at about 25-hundred kids. 

HISD Superintendant Terry Grier was one of the people working the phones at HISD headquarters to check on those students. He says even though the number of potential dropouts is down, it's still too high. 

"If you are an African-American male and you drop out of school, there is an 85-percent chance you're going to be incarcerated by the time you're 25 years of age. And when you look at just our Hispanic population, we have three times more prison beds than we have university beds for Hispanic students."

As for why students quit school, educators say the reasons are complex.  HISD's Director of Dropout Prevention Chris Caesar says some kids have academic problems. Others have a poor attendance record.  There's also the sluggish economy. 

"When things do get tight, even that job at the 7/11 or the McDonald's is important and contributes to the household income. Poverty does not cause kids to drop out of school, but poverty brings other challenges that pull kids away or create barriers to them being successful."

And Caesar says in other cases, kids leave school simply because they're bored.

"They don't often always see the connection between what's going on in the classroom and the real world that they live in.  They want things that are more relevant to the real world and they want to be challenged."

This weekend volunteers will go door-to-door to try to reach students they haven't been able to contact by phone. School officials say there are many options available to kids who don't want to attend a traditional school.  HISD has evening classes for students who work during the day. Students who only need a few credits to graduate can attend a shorter school day.  There's also an online high school program through Texas Tech University that's available to HISD students. 

For more information on the door-to-door canvassing, visit HISD's Grads Within Reach walk.

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