Throughout the Houston Independent School District there's a number that's gotten better, but is still pretty bad - a dropout rate of one in 10 students.
This year on the campus of Sharpstown High there has emerged a crafty tactic to claw back kids to the classroom - convince a friend to come back and earn a $100 gift card.
"If we have a bunch of eyes, kids looking, kids talking to kids and there is some incentive there, that will work," said Rob Gasparello, Sharpstown Principal.
Gasparello's simple, profit driven concept has been adopted district wide.
Grownups battling to bring students back say peers can be persuasive.
"Sometimes they don't necessarily want to hear from an authoritative figure. They just want to hear from their friends because they know that their friends care," said Patra Brannon, HISD's General Manger for Talent Acquisition.
While students can earn up to $500 worth of gift cards there's no pay-off unless the dropout sticks around a full semester.
Even with that restriction teens call the prospect of reaping a cash equivalent very attractive.
"Who doesn't like money? Everybody likes money. Money is a motive for anyone," said Jennifer Hodges, a recent Sharpstown graduate.
"Money talks! People try hard to get them back into school. People are fighting to get that gift card," said Joseph Mitchell, a Sharpstown student.
For Gasparello it's about salvaging kids and the cost of gift cards a small price to pay to get lives back on the right track.
"We've got to understand that in this day and age we have to fit into the lives of kids who have lost their way. The same old, same old doesn't work," said Gasparello.