Survey shows 25% ponder dropping out

Results of the Youth Truth Survey, teacher recruitment and retention and a vision statement were among items discussed at an Education Partnership gathering.

Held in the Complex Community Federal Credit Union Operations & Training Facility, it included a cross-section of people representing Odessa, Midland and the Permian Basin.

The survey centered on student satisfaction with the education they are receiving at Ector County Independent School District and one of the noted findings was that nearly a quarter of high school students think seriously about dropping out of school.

The survey was funded by the Education Foundation and conducted in the fall of 2017.

Some 4,335 students in grades nine through 12 completed the survey and the response rate was 50 percent. Students gave typical feedback on student engagement, academic rigor, relationships with teachers and college and career readiness. They gave more favorable feedback on relationships with peers and school culture, information from the meeting said.

A total of 5,302 middle school students in grades six through eight completed the survey and the response rate was 76 percent. Middle school students gave less than favorable feedback on all the categories, the information said.

Students offered feedback on student engagement; academic rigor; relationships with teachers; and college and career readiness.

Education Foundation Director Celeste Potter said Tuesday about a quarter of Permian High School students, who were mostly in band and choir, didn’t respond so PHS’s scores were low. Other surveys will be conducted over the next two years.

Potter said a question about whether students had ever seriously considered dropping out of school, 24 percent said yes.

In high-poverty schools, which ECISD was designated as based on the percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch, the typical result was 19 percent and the typical Youth Truth Survey response was 17 percent.

Superintendent Tom Crowe said 54 percent of students at the secondary level get free and reduced lunch, but they tend not to sign up. Because of that, he looks at the elementary rate, which is 73 percent. Fifty percent would be considered high poverty, he said.

Potter said students considered dropping out because they were so far behind they felt they couldn’t catch up or they didn’t see the value of an education.

Odessa College Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness Don Wood asked if a question about whether students had ever thought about going to college should be added to the survey.

Potter said that could be added in the fall.

Lorraine Perryman, chairman of the executive committee of the Education Partnership, said from talking to students that many don’t know they need college pursue careers as firefighters, police officers, or cosmetologists.

It was also mentioned that some youngsters may not hear about college at home.

“We need to increase that college vocabulary and understanding among our kids,” Perryman said.

Wood said the dialogue between community leaders and students needs to be improved.

“This is a great way to get started with them. If we get that message across,” Wood said a lot of the other pieces will fall into place.

Perryman said it could lessen a student’s desire to drop out if they know they can start toward their careers in high school.

Lindsey Balderaz, a senior lecturer in the special education program at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, gave a report on the teacher shortage at ECISD and in the area.

She also is with the Future Falcon Leaders in Teacher Education program at UTPB.

As of February, Balderaz said there were 56 open elementary positions and 47 secondary spots. Many of the elementary positions were in special education, and in secondary, English language arts.

The number of open positions at Midland ISD was 27, although Balderaz said there were probably more when looking districtwide.

ECISD and MISD reported starting the school year with more than 50 open positions. Balderaz reported that MISD numbers may “under” represent the actual openings due to multiple openings being grouped under one listing.

Region 18 Education Service Center lists 48 open positions throughout the region.

There are many teacher certification programs ongoing in the area from Region 18 and the school districts.

Staci Ashley, director of elementary staff in the human resources department at ECISD, said the district is working with alternative certification programs and recruits bilingual teachers from Spain. Bilingual, special education, science and math spots are always hard to fill.

Crowe and the ECISD human resources website said the district offers signing incentives for personnel in critical areas and retention bonuses. A new teacher breakfast hosted each year by the Odessa Chamber of Commerce is meant to make teachers feel welcome and help them find community resources, banks and churches, among other things.

Crowe added that young people stay for a year or two and then leave to go to the Metroplex. But Crowe said people can get almost anywhere from here, although it may seem Odessa is in the middle of nowhere.

Perryman said the recent revamping of the curriculum should help recruit the young teachers ECISD is targeting so they will have a road map and mentor teachers.

Patrick Payton, lead teaching minister at Stonegate Fellowship, said a new strategy has to be figured out other than just recruiting teachers. Payton added that the cost of living is not just a school district issue.

The Rev. Dawn Weaks of Connection Christian Church of Odessa said helping teachers buy homes would help keep them here.

Odessa businessman Collin Sewell, who led a portion of the meeting, said this is a chance for the region to work together. Sewell said the attitude has previously been that Odessa had its own problems and was not impacted by those in Midland, but that’s not the case.

Those attending the meeting also worked on a vision statement that will probably be decided on at the next meeting May 15.

Sewell said thoughts from Tuesday’s meeting will be put together and common threads determined.

The partnership’s goal is to encourage a common understanding of the educational issues and challenges facing the community and to work collaboratively to help solve these issues, a news release said.

Education Foundation of Odessa