3/21/2006 Houston-- Houston Mayor Bill White doesn't run Houston's schools, but he is concerned about the number of dropouts in his city and across Texas. That's why the mayor wrote a letter last fall to Houston's 16,000 ninth-graders, asking them this question: Would they commit to staying in school until they graduate from 12th grade? Interestingly, more than 5,000 ninth-graders signed the commitment form and returned it to the mayor, says the Dallas Morning News.

As part of the covenant, White finds ways to honor their dedication:

  • During last month's NBA All-Star game in Houston, for example, he randomly selected 400 of the students to meet top players.

  • Also, more than 300 volunteers go door to door with the mayor in targeted Houston neighborhoods to find students who have left school early.

In Dallas and across Texas, organizations like Communities in Schools are doing their part, too:

  • Staff members and volunteers mentor students and encourage parents, all so teenagers don't hit the streets.

  • Communities in Schools, for instance, links case managers with at-risk students and their parents in more than 15 Dallas schools, as well as in several suburban North Texas districts.

But the state won't control its very serious dropout problem until more leaders, organizations and everyday individuals step forward with their own solutions, says the News. The Annie E. Casey Foundation reports that 9 percent of Texas teens were dropouts in 2004

(Source: Editorial, "Too Many Dropouts: Houston mayor tries a novel approach," Dallas Morning News, March 14, 2006)