EL PASO, Texas - Tackling Texas' dropout rate problem is a tall order with a short list of solutions, which may be why some district officials are making unusual moves in the push to get students a high school diploma.
After 17 Canutillo High School seniors failed the standardized TAKS test, but passed all classes needed to graduate, district officials asked them to withdraw from school and get a high school diploma from an online high school.
"I had parents telling me, 'I didn't know what to do. I didn't think that there was any other option,'" Canutillo Superintendent Damon Murphy said. "We were looking for an alternative, a perfectly legal alternative to help these students in the 11th hour."
District officials gave the students the option to enroll in the Pennsylvania-based Penn Foster High School.
"We were not working with a diploma mill, we were not working with a fly-by-night shady organization," Murphy said.
Even though all of the students agreed to enroll in the online school, none were admitted because the program required them to take additional classes in the summer or fall semester before they were awarded a high school diploma. The students will now have to pass the TAKS if they want to graduate.
Former Ysleta Independent School District Board Trustee Liza Montelongo said more district officials need to start looking for other alternatives in the push to help students graduate.
"We need to be more engaging. We need to think outside the box," Montelongo said. "We need to be able to offer students more options."
One option she doesn't want to encourage is students opting for their GED instead.
"It should be your last option," Montelongo said. "If school districts are labeling these kids as going off and getting their GED, then there needs to be some sort of accountability put on school districts."