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Published in Print: November 13, 2002, as News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Study Disputes Texas On Dropout Statistics

About two out of every five students in Texas who start high school do not graduate, according to new research that appears to contrast sharply with recent state estimates.

The study by the Intercultural Development Research Association, a nonprofit organization in San Antonio, found that roughly 39 percent of students tracked from the freshman class of 1998-99 through their senior year in 2001-02 dropped out of high school before graduation. The rate for 2001-02 improved by about 1 percentage point from the previous year.

The IDRA dropout data has been collected annually since 1986. Since the 1994-1995 graduating class, the state's dropout rate has wavered between 40 percent and 43 percent, according to the research and policy organization, which seeks to improve school equity and increase educational access for poor and minority students and those with language barriers.

Among students who were scheduled to graduate in 2001- 2002, Hispanic students had the highest dropout rate over a four-year period, at 51 percent, followed by black students at 46 percent. White students had a 26 percent dropout rate.

The group's estimates differed from the dropout figures offered recently by the Texas Education Agency.

The state's estimated dropout rate is 6.2 percent for students scheduled to graduate in 2000-2001, who entered high school four years earlier. The dropout rate for a single year was 1 percent in 2000-2001, for students in 7th through 12th grades. Critics have labeled those figures as misleading.

Adrienne M. Sobolak, a spokeswoman for the state education agency, said the state's rate was lower than others' partly because it did not count students who were enrolled in General Educational Development courses as dropouts, and because it included a different pool of students.

Ms. Sobolak noted that later this month, the state is expected to come out with a revised dropout rate that reflects the more stringent reporting requirements in the federal "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001.

—Sean Cavanagh

Embattled Charter School Gets Reprieve in Nevada

A Nevada charter school that was founded by a state senator and faces allegations of fiscal mismanagement and failure to meet the conditions of its own charter has received its second reprieve from the Washoe County school district's board of trustees.

On a 5-2 vote on Oct. 22, the board members opted not to revoke the charter of the Nevada Leadership Academy, which was founded by Sen. Maurice E. Washington, a Republican, provided that the school gives the board a complete budget, a signed lease, and insurance information.

District officials had recommended that the K-8 school's charter in Sparks, Nev., be revoked in August after staff members alleged that the school was fiscally mismanaged, employed a known felon, and held an improper lease. School supporters, however, persuaded board members to try to save the school.

The school board voted 4-3 earlier this fall to allow the academy, which has fewer than 100 students, to keep its charter for another year. The issue was revisited, though, when the school submitted an incomplete budget.

A private company hired by the academy is set to submit an audit of school accounts by Nov. 28. Superintendent Jim Hager of the 59,000-student Washoe County district, said the district administration would present its findings to the board again in mid-December.

—Marianne D. Hurst

Paper: Many Voucher Pupils Return to Fla. Public Schools

More than one in four Florida students who accepted state-financed vouchers to attend private schools this semester have returned to the state's public education system, a survey by TheMiami Herald has found.

Last summer, 607 students requested such tuition vouchers to leave public schools that had received failing grades from the state. Twenty-eight percent of those students, or 170, had returned to public schools as of Nov. 1, according to a survey of local school districts conducted by the newspaper.

Of the 330 students who used vouchers to leave the 361,000-student Miami-Dade County district's five failing schools, 90 have returned since August. Of that group, more than two-thirds returned to their original failing schools, while 27 enrolled in better-performing public schools.

A spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Jeb Bush said the paper's findings showed that the program works. "While some may have reasons for returning to their home school, no longer are they trapped and forced to stay in failing schools," said Elizabeth E. Hirst.

The number of students with state-funded vouchers who returned to public schools tops the percentage giving up newly offered corporate scholarships, the newspaper reported in a story published Nov. 1. Those privately financed scholarships—the state's largest school choice program boasts 7,500 participants—provide aid to low-income families so their children can attend private schools. The companies get a dollar-for-dollar tax write-off for the scholarships. Only 28 students statewide gave up corporate scholarships to stay in the public system this year, according to the paper.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

Vol. 22, Issue 11, Page 17

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