By Jackie Stone

The Cove Herald

Roughly two of every hundred students dropped out of Texas middle schools and high schools in the 2008-09 school year, but the total number of dropouts decreased from the previous year, according to state numbers.

The Texas Education Agency released their annual report of statewide dropout trends Friday, using information from the 2008-2009 school year.

The report shows that the overall dropout rate for middle and high schoolers has gradually dropped from 2.6 percent of students in 2005-2006, to 2 percent of students in 08-09.

TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said that improvement also reflects that the total number of graduating students is increasing.

"Is it still too many kids dropping out? Yes. But those numbers are coming down," she said. "We've got more programs in place, and those are working in tangent to keep kids in school."

Dropout and completion rates are used to determine state ratings at each school and district, and are used by some districts to apply for grants.

Cindy Hutcherson, director of federal programs and accountability for Copperas Cove Independent School District, said in addition to its accountability ratings, the district uses the numbers to conduct its own assessments for areas of improvement.

"It's something we use internally very heavily, so we can see how best to improve programs for our kids," she said.

Hutcherson said CCISD was encouraged by improvements in its dropout numbers in the 2008-09 school year. "All of our groups came up this year, so we are very pleased," she said.

CCISD and Killeen Independent School District both attempted to appeal their TEA rating last year based on their district completion rates.

In order to combat problems CCISD had last year, Hutcherson said the district has added a new completion rate and attendance position to the district and added a campus attendance officer and office at Copperas Cove High School to track students better and keep better records.

Statewide data

Statewide, high school seniors had the highest dropout rate of any grade level at 4.1 percent of students, or roughly 12,600 of 305,000 seniors in 08-09. High school freshmen had the next highest dropout rate at 2.6 percent.

Culbertson said the ninth grade year is the target of some dropout prevention programs that the state believes have been working to lower that number.

"We look at ninth grade as that bubble year, which can be very stressful on some students," she said.

In other trends, more male high school students dropped out than female students, at roughly 21,000 compared with 17,650.

The lower dropout rate for women held true at all grade levels, except senior year when female dropouts outpaced males at 4.5 percent to 3.8 percent.

In reported numbers separated by ethnic group, black students held the highest dropout rate with 8,876 of the 201,176 black students in Texas high schools - a rate of 4.4 percent - while Hispanic students had the highest overall number of dropouts with 22,493, but a lower rate at 3.8 percent of the 595,252 Hispanic students in Texas high schools.

Asian/Pacific Islander students had the lowest dropout rate at 1 percent of the 48,351 total students in Texas high schools.

Students who participated in gifted and talented and career and technical education programs at high schools and middle schools also had a lower dropout rate.

Contact Jackie Stone at or (254) 501-7548.

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