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School Age Relevant Children Not Enrolled in School
  -- size, impact, and mitigation

"School age relevant children not enrolled in school" (RCNE) is the population group that contains dropouts as well as persons who have never entered a school system to become a dropout. In many school districts, the size of the RCNE is as much as 8-to-10 times the size of the reported number of dropouts. Since this population is largely never in school to even become dropouts, the RCNE population is not measured by any in-school data collection program. Essentially, they go unseen.

See related School Age Children Not Enrolled in School interactive ranking table.

This Web page provides supplemental information and perspectives concerning the RCNE population with specific emphasis on the Houston, TX area and the Houston Independent School District (HISD). General background on this subject is provided in Web page

  Type of Enrollment Houston ISD
Total Children 352,535 Percent
  Total Relevant Children 282,620 100.00
    Relevant Children Enrolled 247,180 87.46
      Enrolled in Public School 216,575 76.63
      Enrolled in Private School 30,610 10.83
    Relevant Children Not Enrolled 35,440 12.54
Source: Census 2000 School District Special Tabulation; Children’s Own Universe, Table P1
These reliable, data from the Census 2000 school district special tabulation show that there are more than 35,000 RCNE (relevant children not enrolled) who are residents in the HISD territory. This compares to the number of dropouts reported for the 1999-2000 school year of approximately 3,000 for HISD. There are 33 Texas school districts with more than 3,000 RCNE. There are more than 500,000 RCNE in the State of Texas. See related discussion of State of Texas RCNE population and K-12 school system leavers.

Houston RCNE Distribution by Age

3-4 Years of Age: Early Childhood Learning. In the Houston ISD. 11,490 of the RCNE are ages 3 and 4, relevant to grades EE/PK. The relative and absolute size of this group is very important due to the well documented importance of early age learning.

18-19 Years of Age: Workforce & Transition. Also in the Houston ISD, 10,430 of the RCNE are the 18 and 19 year old population who are not high school graduates (NHSG). The relative and absolute size of this group has very significant implications with respect to overall societal impact -- possibly being of more significance than the overall magnitude of the total RCNE cohort. Most will never obtain a high school degree nor equivalent. The majority will be relatively less productive than if they graduated from high school. Many will go on to place a significant cost on society through increased public welfare or assistance programs. As a group, they will have a higher propensity to be criminal offenders.

5-to-17 Years of Age. While the 5-to-17 age group remains a focus of educational systems, the magnitude of the lower (3-4) and upper (18-19, NHSG) extended age groups are critically important with regard to the educational mission of the U.S. The HISD RCNE 5-to-17 age population was estimated to be 13,520 children as of Census 2000.

Proximity works with school leaders and stakeholder organizations to learn how the size and composition of will change over time, measure impacts, and assess alternative methods of transitioning the RCNE population into the educational system.

Cost and Impact: Houston ISD

Based on the average expenditure per student of $7,358 (source: 1999-2000 school year data as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics Common Core of Data – Fiscal program) the valuation of the Houston ISD RCNE would be in excess of $280 million -- annually. This is one way to measure the cost of the RCNE as this would be the additional cost to the Houston ISD if this population were enrolled in public school.

As noted above, the annual cost does not begin to address the more significant impact on these children themselves, their own families, neighborhoods, and other costs that are borne by public assistance and operations. Impact areas include the workforce related losses, social and indirect costs of higher crime-related propensities, uninsured and related health costs, social welfare payments, and other impact areas are yet to be estimated.

The size of the Houston ISD RCNE, as in many other school districts, is growing. The legacy of the RCNE is likely extended into future generations due to the impact they have on their children.

Incidence, Mitigation, Abatement

While it is important to keep attention on the dropout population, these numbers suggest that there should be more emphasis placed on the broader RCNE population as opposed to only dropouts. How does this impact your school district(s) of interest? The next step is to get the basic data for your district. Use the Children's Demographics Database Query System to view the RCNE data and related demographics for your district. If the size of the RCNE population warrants, there are several follow-on steps.

RCNE Population versus K-12 School System Leavers: State of Texas

Comparing the RCNE population to dropouts illustrates the relative magnitude of these populations in the State of Texas. Based on the Census 2000 school district special tabulation, there were 505,699 RCNE population in Texas. Get this number for your state of interest using a variation on this SELECT statement: "SELECT sum(rcne) FROM sdcop1 WHERE stab='TX'" using the Children's Demographics Database Query System.

The following data are reported in the Secondary School Completion and Dropouts, 2001-02 (page 12) prepared by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Of the 531,749 students who were reported to have left school in 2001-02, 42.3 percent (225,167) were graduates. Over 29 percent moved to other districts in the state. A total of 16,622 (3.1%) dropped out, and 108,999 (20.5%) left the Texas public school system for reasons other than dropout reasons.

Of the approximate 109,000 "leaving for other reasons" nearly 100,000 enrolled in an educational program in another district or in a non-public school educational program. Based on these data, the magnitude of the "dropout problem" is 16,662.

While the TEA report and data are for school year 2001-02, and dropout data are only collected for grades 7 and higher, comparison of the dropouts of approximately 17,000 compared to the RCNE population of 505,000 shows that the impact of the RCNE population will dwarf that of the dropout population (which is generally a part of the RCNE population).


Total children definition. The 2000 SDST defines a child as a person age 0 to 17 (as of April 1, 2000) or a person age 18 or 19 who is not a high school graduate (based on the educational attainment response from the Census 2000 questionnaire).

Relevant children definition. A child is relevant to a school district if he/she lives within the territory of the district and his/her assigned grade falls within the grade range provided by a district.

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