Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Parents move students to avoid middle schools

It has been obvious for decades that the greatest loss of students within Dallas ISD, and most school districts, happens from the 9th to the 10th grade. Most dropouts never made it to the 10th grade. But in Dallas that has wonderfully changed but another loss is taking its place.  While our officially calculated dropout rates have gone down, more students are leaving at an earlier grade, before they enter into the graduation rate calculation.  While DISD is setting graduation rate records every year, it is also loosing record numbers of 5th graders before they enter middle school in the 6th grade!
Dallas ISD Student Loss Centers, transitions 5th to 6th & 9th to 10th
(Right-click and hit "open link" to enlarge and/or print.)
Parents are removing their children from DISD between 5th and 6th grade to avoid DISD middle school, as is reflected in the graph above.  Notice how the blue line goes down.  That represents the decrease in the percentage of 5th graders who actually make it to 6th grade.  Now over 11% of 5th graders are missing in the 6th grade. The solution is not as obvious as the other transition.  This is a transition initiated by parents facing middle schools with terrible reputations, most DISD middle schools!

Dallas must begin to indicate they are paying closer attention to the research which is all pointing the same direction, toward K-8 schools as the answer.  (See the research at http://schoolarchiveproject.blogspot.com/2012/02/separate-middle-schools-vs-k-8.html.)  The K-8 alternative is more popular with most parents. Student achievement stays higher and the multiple other problems in middle school are lessened with K-8 schools.  A community can focus more intensely on their local school and the PTA will be a much more vital organization in each school.  There will be less need for busing of students as attendance zones will be more compact.

Yes, this will be a very gradual transition but parents need to demand it.  It can happen school by school.  Ultimately it will help guide future building in DISD.  We do not need more middle schools!