Education in Port Arthur

Nov 21, 2013


While driving I look up to see a sign displaying an Amber Alert. The message describes the child, where last seen, what they were wearing and giving a number to call if you have any information about this child. The evening news goes into detail with interviews from the parents and neighbors. Everyone is worried and trying to help find this missing child. Amber Alert is a very helpful and needed program and many children have been saved because of it.

But, currently, there doesn’t seem to be the same concern for the 33 percent of the children that go missing from the classroom between the eighth grade and graduation. Recently I asked for numbers from PAISD on the number of students in each grade, 8th through 12th for the years of 2007 – 2012. In 2007 we had 722 students in the 8th grade. In 2011 when the 2007 students would have graduated we had lost 263 of those students and graduated 459.

Coincidentally, a few days later I received a report by the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) on the same subject. The report was for the state of Texas and entitled Texas Public School Attrition Study, 2012 – 2013. It seems the numbers for Port Arthur ISD are almost identical to the numbers for the state. We are losing from 25 to 33 percent of our students from the eighth grade through graduation. According to the IDRA report in the year 2012 – 2013 the attrition rate for Texas was, Black Students 26 percent, Hispanic Students 33 Percent and White Students 14 percent. For Jefferson County it was Black Students 18 percent, Hispanic Students 39 percent and White Students 8 percent.  Over the 28 year study period, for this report, Texas has lost a cumulative total of more than 3.3 million students from high school enrollment.

While I don’t like it I can understand a child leaving school in the 11th or 12th grade, especially if he or she has been held back and reached an age when the parent and courts cannot control them. But for younger children we need to work with the school and courts to make the parents understand they are responsible for getting these children to school. Parents have already dumped their responsibility of feeding, clothing, medicating and educating their children on the schools but we must draw a line somewhere. If we do not develop programs to force parents to get back into the game we are never going to get our education system back to par with the rest of the world.

The IDRA report wrapped up with the following:

“What have we learned?”

Valuing Youth Works. If you provide young people with an opportunity to contribute – to themselves, their families, their communities – they will.

Local Ownership is the Key. To scale up and replicate success requires holding fast to essentials while adapting to local contexts.

School Leadership Sets the Tone. To squarely take on attrition, school leaders must inspire innovation, embody engagement, and incorporate actionable knowledge.

Realizing the Power of One + One + One. All students must have at least one caring adult in their lives at school and a reason to care.

Family and Community Engagement is Essential. The school – family – community triad is at the heart of holding on to students and ensuring their success.

Success Demands Well – Defined Partnerships. When roles are clear and each partner contributes from its unique strengths, a multi-sector collaboration can reap dramatic results.

Structure and Innovation Sustains Impact. Transformative impact demands sustained structures, resources and a commitment to valuing all youth.


These are alarming numbers followed by well written suggestions. The challenge is for the Port Arthur ISD leaders to come out, engage the community, ask for our help, define what is needed (besides the usual request for more money) and see if we cannot, as a community, offer a real plan to keep our students in class. 

Mitch Osborne, incoming chairman, has already put me on notice that the Port Arthur Chamber is going to concentrate on education in 2014.  If you care, and want to help, please call the chamber at 409-963-1107 and offer your help.

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