New IES Study Reports On-Track Indicator Findings in Five Texas School Districts

A recent IES-funded study explored high school students’ academic progress at the end of ninth grade in five Texas school districts as an indicator of whether they would graduate from high school.[1] In the report,  Applying an On Track Indicator for High School Graduation: Adapting the Consortium on Chicago School Research Indicator for Five Texas Districts, researchers examined 12,662 students and used one of the Chicago Consortium on School Research’s (CCSR) indicators of high school dropout[2] - the number of credits required for promotion to tenth grade in Texas. The goal of the report was to determine how accurately the on-track indicator differentiated students who did and did not graduate on time in the five districts and if the indicator provided similar results for specific student subgroups. Findings collected from the study’s 2004/05 – 2007/08 school year data sets include:

  • In all five districts, a majority of first-time ninth grade students were on track for graduation at the end of ninth grade. However, on-track rates among the five school districts ranged from 61.2 percent to 86.0 percent.
  • In all five districts, on-time graduation rates were higher for students who were on track at the end of ninth grade than for students who were off track (See Table 1 for district breakdowns of on- and off-track).
  • Across districts, for all racial/ethnic groups, the on-time graduation rate was higher for on- track students than for off-track students.

The study’s examination of 2004-05 school year data for students with and without IEPs found that on-track students with IEPS in each district also graduated on time at a higher rate than did off-track students.[3] On-track rates by special education status ranged from 23.5 percent to 74.7 percent in the five districts for students with an IEP, and from 66.2 percent to 87.7 percent for students without an IEP.

The National High School Center has also worked with CCSR’s research-based on-track indicators and incorporated them into its Early Warning System Tool. Additionally, you can listen to Center Director Joseph Harris talk to Audio Journal about identifying potential dropouts, and read more about EWS specifics in our EWS blog entries. Future blog posts will explore identifying early warning signs for students with disabilities, and providing recommendations for dropout prevention strategies. 

Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.


[1] The study authors note that districts were not randomly selected and are not representative of all Texas districts. The findings could differ in districts that have not been involved in previous indicator work or have different profiles of student characteristics. Also, only one version of an on-track indicator was used. The degree of differentiation could change if other versions of an on-track indicator were used.

[2] CCSR compared Chicago Public Schools students’ course performance in their first year of high school with their graduation rates four years later and classified students as on track for on- time graduation based on two criteria: earning enough credits to be promoted to grade 10 and having no more than one semester “F” in a core course (English, math, science, and social studies). Students who failed to meet either or both of these benchmarks were classified as off track. (Allensworth and Easton 2005).

[3] The study authors note that, “Districts also varied considerably in the proportion of students in the analytic sample with an IEP (used to identify students receiving special education services), ranging from 6.0 percent to 13.1 percent. District E used a different method to identify students with IEPs (a special education course listed in the student course history) than did Districts A–D (a binary code in the student demographic file). Consequently, District E data might underestimate the number of students with IEPs since students with an IEP who never took a special education course would not be included.”

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