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Special Education Dropout Information

Texas Dropout Definition

A dropout is a student who attends grade 7-12 in a public school in a particular school year, does not return the following fall, is not expelled, and does not:

  • Graduate;
  • Receive a GED;
  • Continue school outside the public school  system;
  • Begin college; or
  • Die.

Texas Education Code §39.053

High dropout rates among youth with disabilities are a serious national concern. The National Center for Education Statistics reports modest gains in the graduation rate for students with disabilities. In 2012-2013 there was a 62 percent increase. Data, also demonstrates that students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to receive out-of-school suspension as students without disabilities. In addition students with disabilities were subject to physical restraint at rate six times that of their peers, leading to suspensions, which leads to dropout.

Because students drop out of school for a variety of reasons, some external to school and some education-related it is difficult to predict which students will drop out. Understanding the factors that contribute to dropout helps ensure the development of effective dropout prevention programs and strategies.

  • Problem behavior coupled with academic struggles;
  • High absenteeism and being help back a grade are serious risk factors for dropping out;
  • Use of exclusionary discipline practices, such as suspension, (in school and out of school) has been identified as one of the major factors contributing to dropout

Academic progress and school completion are not equally distributed across disability, income or ethnicity. Almost half of students with emotional disturbance (ED) drop out. Students with a disability from low-income families have a higher dropout rate and Hispanic youth have experienced the smallest improvement in school completion rates. 

Researchers have studied and evaluated programs and practices designed to reduce dropout rates and to help students who are struggling in school for decades. Although many promising activities exist, there are no “best” programs and practices that apply in every situation.

Texas’ dropout crisis has additional unique challenges, the size of Texas school districts and its unique ethnic diversity offers both opportunities and challenges. In order to better address the uniqueness of dropout in Texas, The Texas State Legislature passed House Bill 2237 providing for a study on the best practices in dropout prevention.  Based on this study, they were able to classify programs that have the best chance for replication in Texas (to view the full study http://tea.texas.gov/Dropout_Resources.html).

SAFE LEARNING:

A comprehensive violence prevention plan, including conflict resolution, must deal with potential violence as well as crisis management. Violence prevention means providing daily experiences at all grade levels that enhance positive social attitudes and effective interpersonal skills in all students.

 

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Birth-to-three-interventions demonstrate that providing a child educational enrichment can modify IQ. The most effective way to reduce the number of children who will ultimately drop out is to provide the best possible classroom instruction from the beginning of their experience. 

MENTORING/TUTORING

Mentoring is a one-to-one caring, supportive relationship between a mentor and a mentee that is based on trust. Tutoring, also a one-to-one activity, focuses on academics and is an effective way to address specific needs such as reading, writing, or math competencies.

ACTIVE LEARNING

When educators show students that there are different ways to learn, students find new and creative ways to solve problems, achieve success, and become lifelong learners.

The National Dropout Prevention Center/Network (NDPC/N) has identified four general categories for 15 effective strategies.

  1. Foundational Strategies 
    • Systemic Approach
    • School-community Collaboration
    • Safe Learning Environment
  2. Early Intervention 
    • Family Engagement
    • Early Childhood Education
    • Early Literacy development
  3. Basic Core Strategies 
    • Mentoring/Tutoring
    • Service-Learning
    • Alternative Schooling
    • Afterschool/Out-of-School Opportunities
  4. Managing and Improving Instruction
  • Professional Development
  • Active Learning
  • Educational Technology
  • Individualized Instruction
  • Career and Technical Education (CTE)

 

Introduction

There are multiple accountability and monitoring systems in Texas, each of which accounts for dropout rates in different ways. For students who receive special education services, there are additional monitoring systems that look specifically at special education program data.  Taken together with state and federal accountability data, these allow for a fuller picture of dropout data for students with disabilities in our state.  Below is a discussion of the data collection methods and the different calculations, including how they are used within each accountability and monitoring system.

Leaver Codes

2017-2018 Texas Student Data System:  Appendix D – PEIMS Leaver Reason Codes and Documentation Requirements

Each time a student leaves (un-enrolls from) a district, the district must report this to TEA through our state’s Texas Student Data System (TSDS) PEIMS Leaver Codes. The type of leaver code reported determines whether or not the student is counted as a dropout.

In different accountability/monitoring systems, different leaver codes are used for calculating dropouts.

The following leaver codes are counted as dropouts for all student populations (regardless of whether or not a student qualifies for special education services), as indicated below:

  • State Accountability Leaver Codes:
    • Leaver code 98 Other, Reason Not Listed Above
      • This code is used for students who are withdrawn by the LEA after a period of time because they have quit attending school for unknown reasons or for other reasons that are not listed in the reason codes provided.
  • Federal Accountability Leaver Codes (also used in PBMAS and SPP):
    • Leaver code 88 Student ordered by a court to attend a GED Program and has not earned a GED certificate
    • Leaver code 89 Student is incarcerated in a state jail of federal penitentiary as an adult or a person certified to stand trial as an adult
    • Leaver code 98 Other, Reason Not Listed Above
      • This code is used for students who are withdrawn by the LEA after a period of time because they have quit attending school for unknown reasons or for other reasons that are not listed in the reason codes provided.
 

Annual Dropout Rate

All systems currently in use in Texas for students who receive special education services use the Annual Dropout Rate calculation (as opposed to the longitudinal or "cohort" rate - see below).

Annual dropout rates look at single year data.  This rate is calculated by dividing the number of students who drop out during a single school year by the cumulative number of students who enrolled during the same school year.  For this calculation, it does not matter what year the student should have graduated, but only that the student was enrolled during the year and left the district under a leaver code that counted as a dropout. 

Calculating Annual Dropouts: 

number of students who dropped out during the school year                             
number of students who enrolled during the school year

The annual dropout calculation rate is a measure of annual performance for a school, district, or state.  It allows inclusion of more campuses in an accountability system since it can be calculated for any school that has students in grades included in the calculation.  Additional advantages to using an annual dropout rate calculation include:

  • ability to calculate based on special program participation, as this generally does not change during a single school year; and
  • ability to calculate based on grade levels (any grade level included on a campus).

The main disadvantage to using an annual dropout rate is the fact that because it includes only one year of data, it produces the lowest dropout rate of all calculation methods.  This highlights the national concern that reporting lower dropout rates may underestimate the dropout problem. 

The following systems use annual dropout rates:

  • state accountability – campus and district level data (used only if graduation rates are not available);
  • PBMAS – district level data;
  • SPP – district level data;
  • LEA determination (uses SPP data).

TEA FAQ on Graduates, Dropouts, and Leavers

Secondary School Completion and Dropouts in Texas Public Schools 2014-2015 (August 2016)

  • State accountability is calculated and reported at both the district and campus level.  Dropout rates are a part of Index 4 in the state accountability system.  However, dropout rates are only used if graduation rates are not available.  In this case, annual dropout rates are used (rather than longitudinal dropout rates). 

    • Index 4 for non AEA districts/campuses (districts/campuses not evaluated under alternative education accountability provisions):
      • There are 4  components:
        1. STAAR results;
        2. graduation rate or dropout rate;
        3. graduation-plan rate; and
        4. college and career readiness.
          • For a district, high school campus, or a campus serving K-12 (elementary/secondary), the target for Index 4 is based on all 4 components.  All four components are equally weighted in the Index 4 score at 25%.
          • For an elementary campus, middle school campus, or any district or campus that does not have data for all four components, the target is based on the STAAR component only.  Thus, there is no graduation or dropout data calculation for these districts or campuses. 
    • Index 4 and Students who Receive Special Education Services (non-AEA districts/campuses)
      • Index 4 longitudinal graduation rate data is calculated for all students and for all students grouped by race/ethnicity, ELL status, and special education status.  Both the 4-year and the 5-year graduation rate cohort is calculated; the higher rate is used for the Index 4 score.
      • Dropout rates are used only if graduation rates are not available.  In this case, annual dropout rates are used (rather than longitudinal dropout rates). 

    • Index 4 for AEA campuses and charter schools:
      • There are 2 components:
        1. STAAR results; and
        2. graduation rate, GED, and Continuers or Dropout rate.
          • Because not all AEAs have data for both components, Index 4 has two separate and distinct targets:  one based on both components and one based on graduation/dropout rate only. 
          • If both components are used, STAAR results are weighted at 25% and graduation, continuers, and GED OR Dropout rate is weighted at 75%.
    • Index 4 and Students who Receive Special Education Services (AEA districts/campuses)
      • Index 4 longitudinal graduation rate data is calculated for all students.  The 4-year,5-year, and 6-year rate for graduates, continuing students, and GED recipients is calculated and the highest rate is used for the Index 4 score for all students and for all students grouped by race/ethnicity, ELL status, and special education status.
      • Dropout rates are used only if graduation rates are not available.  In this case, annual dropout rates are used (rather than longitudinal dropout rates). 

    To view district or campus-level state accountability dropout data (only available if graduation data is not available for the campus or district), visit the TEA webpage, Texas Accountability Rating System, select the School Year and select either campus or district.



    2017 Accountability Manual for Texas Public School Districts and Campuses

    • Annual Dropout Rate Calculation

    • State Definition of Dropout (Leaver code 98 only)

    • Calculated at District and Campus Level

    • Calculated for All Students, by Race/Ethnicity, ELL Status, and Special Education Status

    • Only used if Graduation Rates are not available

  • The federal accountability system measures is referred to in Texas as System Safeguards.  System safeguards are calculated and reported at both the district and campus levels.  This system measures performance of students who receive special education services distinctly as well as limits on students with disabilities who participate in alternate assessments (STAAR Alternate 2).  Finally, system safeguards specifically measure graduation rates of students who receive special education services.  

    However, system safeguards/federal accountability does not currently include any measure of dropout rates, including not having a measure of dropout rates specific to students who receive special education services.


    2017 Accountability Manual for Texas Public School Districts and Campuses

    • No Dropout Rates Included

Accountability Systems Specific to Students who Receive Special Education Services

  • Texas’s Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System (PBMAS) is a district-level, data-driven monitoring system that is one part of Texas Education Agency’s annual evaluation of school districts’ performance and program effectiveness of specific programs.  Special education (abbreviated SPED within PBMAS) is one of the programs analyzed within PBMAS.

    PBMAS is calculated and reported only at the district level.

    PBMAS uses the annual dropout rate rather than a cohort rate.  This means that PBMAS looks at dropouts within a single school year rather than dropouts within a cohort year. 

    The PBMAS calculation for dropouts within the special education program is as follows:

    number of Grades 7-12 students served in special education who dropped out   
    number of Grades 7-12 students served in special education in attendance

    PBMAS uses the Federal Accountability requirements and definitions for determining which students count as dropouts. This means leaver codes 88, 89, and 98 are counted as dropouts in PBMAS. 

    • Minimum Size Requirements (MSR): 
      • In PBMAS, dropouts are calculated separately for each program area (so SPED is reported as a stand alone dropout number). 
      • The minimum size requirement for the number of students in attendance in a single program for dropouts to be calculated for that program area is 30.  Therefore, there must be at least 30 students reported in attendance in SPED throughout the year for dropouts to be calculated.
      • The minimum number of dropouts in a single program area for dropouts to be calculated is 5. 
        • Note:  In PBMAS, data can be collectively cumulatively for up to 3 years of analysis in order to meet the MSR.  So, if a district does not meet the MSR in one school year, PBMAS can use cumulative data from the current year and up to the last 2 school years (3 years total) to meet the MSR.

    Due to the fact that dropout data is not finalized in TSDS/PEIMS until after PBMAS reports are created for districts, PBMAS dropout data is not from the school year immediately preceding the PBMAS report.  Instead, it is from the school year prior to the one that just finished.  That means the any given year’s dropout data in PBMAS is essentially two school years old.

    Districts can access confidential student-level listings of dropouts served in special education that were used in calculating the PBMAS dropout numbers through the secure Accountability TEASE application, using the Research and Analysis (RES) tab. 

    To view district-level PBMAS dropout data, visit the TEA webpage, PBMAS – District Reports.


    Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System Manual

    • Annual Dropout Rate Calculation

    • Federal Definition of Dropout (Leaver codes 88, 89, and 98)

    • Calculated at District Level Only (No Campus Data)

    • Calculated at Program Level Only (Special Education Specific)

    • Data is 2 years old

  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 requires each state to measure each local education agency’s (LEA’s) performance on 14 specific indicators within the LEA’s special education program.  These indicators must then be reported each year by the state to the U. S. Department of Education as an aggregated state report. This report is refereed to as the State Performance Plan (SPP)/Annual Performance Report (APR).  The second indicator on this report is specific to students with disabilities who drop out, and is commonly referred to as State Performance Plan (SPP) Indicator 2.

    SPP 2 uses the state requirements and definitions of drop outs.  This means that students reported with Leaver Code 98 are the only students who count as dropouts under SPP 2.  It uses the annual dropout rate calculation

    SPP 2 is calculated and reported only at the district level (and additionally at the state level in the Annual Performance Report (APR) that is submitted in the Spring of each year to the U.S. Department of Education).

    number of Grades 7-12 students served in special education who dropped out     
    number of Grades 7-12 students served in special education in attendance

    To view district-level SPP 2 data, visit the TEA webpage, District Profile of State Performance Plan Indicators Report.  

    • Annual Dropout Rate Calculation

    • Federal Definition of Dropout (Leaver codes 88, 89, and 98)

    • Calculated at District Level Only (No Campus Data)

    • Calculated at Program Level Only (Special Education Specific)

    • Data is 2 years old

  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal education law that governs special education services, requires that each local education agency (LEA) be issued a determination rating by their state education agency each year regarding their implementation and monitoring of their special education program.  

    LEA Determinations are integrated with PBMAS staging levels.

Longitudinal (Graduation and) Dropout Rate (Cohorts)

Finally, while longitudinal dropout rates are not currently used in any Texas systems related to calculating dropouts for students who receive special education services, it is important to have an understanding of how longitudinal (sometimes called cohort) rates differ from annual dropout rates.  

Longitudinal rates are calculated using student cohort groups.  The rate is based on students who began school during a certain school year together and thus, should have graduated together. For example, the longitudinal graduation and dropout rates for 2015 (most current data available) are based on students who began grade 7 in 2009-10 or later joined that cohort. 

Texas Education Agency (TEA) calculates longitudinal data for classes of Grade 7 students and for classes of Grade 9 students.  This allows for both a 4-year longitudinal graduation and dropout rate as well as extended (5-,  6-, and 7-year graduation and dropout rates).  An extended longitudinal graduation rate is the percentage of students from a class of beginning ninth graders who graduate within five or more years.  Similarly, a four-year longitudinal dropout rate is the percentage of students from a class of beginning ninth graders who drop out before completing high school.  An extended longitudinal dropout rate reflects those students who drop out within five or more years after entering ninth grade. 

Calculating Longitudinal Dropouts: 

  • Cohort:  A cohort is defined as the group of students who began Grade 9 (or Grade 7) together in Texas public school for the first time in the same school year plus students who, in the next three (or five) school year, enter the Texas public school system in the grade level expected for the cohort.
    • Note:  For purposes of calculating a longitudinal rate, students remain in their original cohort, even if they are retained and/or skip grades.
  • Class:  A class is a subset of the cohort, used to calculate the longitudinal dropout rate. The class consists of all members of the cohort minus students who leave the Texas public school system for reasons other than graduating, receiving a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, or dropping out (left using a leaver codethat counted as a dropout), and students who cannot be tracked.  Only student in the cohort to whom final statuses are assigned are included as members of the class.

The Calculation:

the number of students who drop out
number of students in the class

Note:  Dropouts (which students/leaver codes are counted as dropouts) are based on the dropout definition in place in the year the student drops out, not in the year the student entered high school. 

One major advantage of the use of the longitudinal calculation of dropouts over the annual dropout calculation is that it is more consistent with the public understanding of a dropout, as someone who enters high school but does not graduate within a specified period of time.  Additionally, because students are tracked into the Fall of the school year following their anticipated graduation date (or longer), the gives the school district time to locate the student and encourage him/her to return to school.  Also, because this measure is longitudinal, it is more likely to be stable across time than is an annual measure. 

Disadvantages to using a longitudinal rate generally stem from the potential for error that can result from the necessity in linking multiple student records to track across school years and even from classification of students who move across schools.  Changes in data collection methods, including changes to the dropout definition, across time further impact this method.  Also, longitudinal methods can only be calculated for schools that include all grade levels for which data is collected, unlike annual methods, which can be included for all schools for any single grade level included in the data collection.

Currently no Texas systems use Longitudinal dropout rates; however, this data is used in many national reports and is more consistent with the general public’s understanding of what dropping out means – as a student who starts high school but does not graduate within a specified amount of time.

Comparison data of the annual and longitudinal dropout rates in Texas can be seen in the Secondary School Completion and Dropouts in Texas Public Schools Report. 




[1] Secondary School Completion and Dropouts in Texas Public Schools 2014-2015 (August 2016)


[1] Secondary School Completion and Dropouts in Texas Public Schools 2014-2015 (August 2016)


[1] Secondary School Completion and Dropouts in Texas Public Schools 2014-2015 (August 2016

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