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Information Services - Statistical Reports

Dropout Rates 1994 - 1995

Introduction

The purpose of this report is to assess the holding power of schools in order to examine how well Massachusetts public schools are doing in graduating their students. This report summarizes and analyzes information about students who dropped out of school during the 1994-95 reporting year.

Effective dropout prevention requires accurate information about the extent and nature of the dropout problem. This analysis is intended to contribute to efforts to continue to develop and strengthen successful dropout prevention programs. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education welcomes suggestions that would improve the analysis of dropout information and contribute to its usefulness.

Definition of a Dropout

Dropouts are defined as students who leave school prior to graduation for reasons other than transfer to another school. This is the third year that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is reporting two different measures of dropout rates: unadjusted and adjusted. The unadjusted dropout rate is the measure that has been reported since 1987. It is the number of students who drop out over a one-year period, from July 1 to June 30, divided by the enrollment on October 1. This measure counts students as dropouts regardless of whether they return to school at some future time.

A new measure of a dropout was developed by the U.S. Department of Education. This measure, referred to in this report as the adjusted dropout rate, partially accounts for students who drop out and return to school. Students who drop out during a particular reporting year but return to school by October 1 of the following year, referred to in this report as returned dropouts, are not counted as dropouts in the adjusted dropout rate. This measure will eventually be adopted by all states, allowing for comparisons between states and with the national average.

For the first few years that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reports the adjusted dropout rate, it will also report the unadjusted dropout rate in order to allow for comparisons with previous years. Once a timeline has been established with the adjusted dropout rate, the unadjusted rate will no longer be reported. The dropout rate referred to in this report will be the adjusted rate unless otherwise specified.

Table 1. Dropout Rates: 1995
 TotalAdjusted Number of Enrollment Dropouts*Adjusted Annual Rate*Adjusted Projected 4-Year Rate**Unadjusted Number of DropoutsUnadjusted Annual RateUnadjusted Projected of Dropouts**Returns as Percent of Dropouts***
Total, Grade 9-12234,6088,396 3.6 --10,2814.4 -- 18.3

Grade

Grade 966,5382,036 3.1142,4843.7 16 18.0
Grade 1060,5172,261 3.7--2,7664.6--18.3
Grade 1156,0612,497 4.5--3,0325.4--17.6
Grade 1251,4921,602 3.1--1,9993.9 --19.9

Gender

Male 118,9814,932 4.1166,0925.119 19.0
Female 115,6273,464 3.0124,1893.6 14 17.3

Race/Ethnic Group

African-
American
18,8051,3687.3261,5948.5 30 14.2
Asian 8,4972583.0123183.714 18.9
Hispanic19,0771,7749.3322,18611.538 18.8
Native
American
458245.219275.922 11.1
White 187,7714,9722.6106,1563.313 19.2
Vocational-
Technical
Schools****
29,924 1,1934.0151,3844.6 18 13.8
City/Town 5,202 57911.13762412.040 7.2
Regional/
County/
Independent
24,722 6142.5107603.1 12 19.2
Students with
Special Needs*****
25,201 NANA NA2,2328.9 NA NA

* adjusted figures account for 1994-95 dropouts who returned to school by Oct. 1, 1995

** percentage of ninth graders (Class of 1998) projected to drop out over four-year period

*** percentage of 1994-95 dropouts who returned to school by Oct. 1, 1995

**** figures do not include vocational-technical students enrolled in comprehensive high schools

***** enrollment is for students age 16-21

Analysis of Dropout Rates

The 1995 annual dropout rate for Massachusetts public schools was 3.6 percent. A total of 8,396 ninth- to twelfth-graders dropped out of Massachusetts public schools during the 1994-95 annual reporting year and did not return to school by October 1, 1995. These students represented 3.6 percent of the 234,608 ninth- to twelfth-graders who were enrolled in the state's public schools in the Fall of 1994 (Table 1).

In addition to these students, another 1,885 students dropped out of school during the 1994-95 reporting year but returned to school by October 1, 1995. These students, referred to in this report as returned dropouts, represented 18.3 percent of the total number of students who dropped out.

Based on the annual dropout rate, it is projected that 14 percent of the students who entered ninth grade in the 1994-95 reporting year may not graduate. This statistic, known as the projected four-year dropout rate, represents an estimation of the cumulative effect of four years of dropping out for the Class of 1998.

The 1995 annual dropout rate of 3.6% declined slightly from the prior year rate of 3.7%, after rising from a rate of 3.5% in 1993 (Table 2 and Figure 1). The projected four-year dropout rate of 14% for the class of 1998 showed no change from the previous year after increasing slightly from 13% for the class of 1996 (Table 3 and Figure 2).

Table 2. Annual Dropout Rates: 1993-1995
 199319941995
Total Dropout Rate, Grade 9-12 3.5% 3.7% 3.6%
Total Number of Dropouts 7,975 8,512 8,396
Grade 9-12 Enrollment 229,142 232,046 234,608

Grade

Grade 93.2% 2.9% 3.1%
Grade 103.8% 4.2% 3.7%
Grade 114.0% 4.4% 4.5%
Grade 123.0% 3.3% 3.1%

Gender

Male3.9% 4.2% 4.1%
Female3.1% 3.2% 3.0%

Race/Ethnic Group

African American 6.9% 6.4% 7.3%
Asian 2.7% 3.3% 3.0%
Hispanic 9.6% 9.1% 9.3%
Native American 7.9% 9.3% 5.2%
White 2.6% 2.8% 2.6%

-

The 1995 statewide dropout rate masks the wide disparity in the rate that existed among individual schools and the severe dropout problem that persists in some schools. The distribution of the annual dropout rate ranged from a low of zero percent to a high of 36.9 percent. Eighteen schools reported no dropouts in 1995, an increase from 11 schools with no dropouts in 1994 (Table 4 and Figure 3). Another 51 schools reported dropouts rates of one percent or less in 1995. At the other end, fourteen schools reported dropout rates in excess of 10 percent, up from thirteen in 1994. These fourteen schools comprised 4.5 percent of the state's grade nine through twelve enrollment but accounted for 21.2 percent of the state's dropouts.

Table 3. Projected Four-Year Dropout Rates: Classes of 1996-1998
  1996 1997 1998
Total13%14%14%

Gender

Male14%16%16%
Female12%12%12%

Race/Ethnic Group

African American25%23%26%
Asian10%13%12%
Hispanic32%31%32%
Native American30%33%19%
White10%11%10%


Table 4. Distribution of Annual Dropout Rates: 1994-1995
Number of Schools*
Annual Rate (%)
  1994 1995 
0   11 18  
0.1 - 1.0  55 51
1.1 - 2.5  86 102
2.6 - 5.0  97 75
5.1 - 7.5  24 33
7.6 - 10.0  12 7
10.1 and above  13 14

* excludes schools with enrollments less than 75

Results for Selected Student Populations

In any given year dropout rates vary widely among specific student populations (Tables 1 and 2). Because the dropout rate for certain groups of students is especially high, examining the dropout rate for specific populations is necessary in order to appropriately develop and target dropout prevention efforts. The dropout rate for selected populations of students is examined below.

  • Grade
  • Students in grades ten and eleven dropped out at higher rates than did students in grades nine and twelve. The 1995 annual dropout rate for tenth-graders was 3.7 percent and the rate for eleventh-graders was 4.5 percent. The dropout rate for both ninth-graders and twelfth-graders was 3.1. This pattern of dropout rates by grade has remained consistent over time.

  • The dropout rate increased for grades nine and eleven and decreased for grades ten and twelve between 1994 and 1995. The rate increased from 2.9 percent to 3.1 percent for grade nine and from 4.4 to 4.5 percent for grade eleven. It decreased from 4.2 to 3.7 percent for grade ten and from 3.3 to 3.1 percent for grade twelve.
  • Gender -
  • The 1995 annual dropout rate was higher for males than for females. The annual rate was 4.1 percent for males and 3.0 percent for females. The projected four-year rate was 16 percent for males and 12 percent for females. This pattern has also persisted over time.
  • The annual dropout rate for both males and females decreased between 1994 and 1995. The rate decreased from 4.2 to 4.1 percent for males and from 3.2 to 3.0 percent for females.
  • Race/Ethnicity -
  • The wide disparity in dropout rates for the various racial/ethnic groups that has persisted in the past continues to exist. Hispanic students had the highest annual dropout rate at 9.3 percent, over three-and-a-half times as high as the rate for white students at 2.6 percent. The annual rate for African-American students was 7.3 percent. The annual rate for Native American students was 5.2 percent, and the rate for Asian students was 3.0 percent.
  • The projected four-year dropout rate for the Class of 1998 showed similar disparity by race/ethnicity. The rate was highest for Hispanic students at 32 percent, followed by African-American students at 26 percent, and Native American students at 19 percent. The rate for Asian students was 12 percent and the rate for white students was 10 percent.
  • The annual dropout rate increased for Hispanic and African-American studetns between 1994 and 1995, and it decreased for the other racial/ethnic groups. The rate increased from 9.1 to 9.3 percent for Hispanic students and from 6.4 to 7.3 percent for African-American students. The annual dropout rate decreased from 2.8 to 2.6 percent for white students, from 3.3 to 3.0 percent for Asian students, and from 9.3 to 5.2 percent for Native American students (the rate for Native American students is susceptible to wide fluctuation due to low enrollment).
  • Vocational-Technical Schools -
  • A total of 1,193 ninth- to twelfth-grade students enrolled in the state's 42 vocational-technical schools, out of an enrollment of 29,924, dropped out of school during the 1994-95 reporting year. This represents an annual dropout rate of 4.0 percent, somewhat higher than the statewide rate of 3.6 percent. The projected four-year dropout rate for all vocational-technical schools was 15 percent.
  • In 1995, 82.6 percent of vocational students attended the 32 regional, independent or county vocational-technical schools in the state. The remainder attended the 10 vocational-technical schools that were part of city and town school systems. The annual dropout rate of 11.1 percent for city/town vocational-technical schools was nearly three times higher than the rate of 2.5 percent for regional, independent and county vocational-technical schools. The projected four-year rate was 37 percent for city/town vocational-technical schools and 10 percent for regional, independent and county vocational-technical schools.
  • The annual dropout rate for all vocational-technical schools increased from 3.2 to 4.0 percent between 1994 and 1995. The rate for city/town vocational-technical schools increased substantially from 4.8 to 11.1 percent, while the rate for regional vocational-technical schools declined from 2.8 to 2.5 percent.
  • Students with Special Needs -
  • A total of 2,232 students with special needs age 16 and older, out of an enrollment of 25,201, dropped out of school during the 1994-95 reporting year; this figure does not reflect dropouts who returned to school as these data are unavailable. This represents an unadjusted annual dropout rate of 8.9 percent, more than twice as high as the statewide unadjusted rate of 4.4 percent for all students. The rate for students with special needs increased from 8.3 percent the previous year.

Returned Dropouts

As mentioned above, 18.3 percent of the total number of students who dropped out during the 1994-95 reporting year returned to school by October 1, 1995. These students are known as returned dropouts. Accounting for these students results in a decrease in the annual dropout rate from 4.4 to 3.6 percent.

The percentage of dropouts who returned to school varied widely by school (Figure 4). Of the 298 schools having any of the grades nine through twelve which had dropouts during the 1994-95 reporting year, 131 schools (43.9%) had up to 20 percent of their dropouts return to school by October 1, 1995. Another 80 schools (26.8%) had between 20 and 40 percent returned dropouts. Fourteen schools had between 40 and 60 percent of their dropouts return, seven schools had between 60 and 80 percent returned dropouts, and another six had between 80 and 100 percent of their dropouts return. Sixty schools had none of their dropouts return to school.

The distribution of returned dropouts also varied among specific populations of students (Table 1). The following figures reveal that certain students are more likely to return to school than others:

  • Grade - There was slight variation in the liklihood to return to school among students of different grades. Students in grade twelve (19.9 percent) were most likely to return to school, followed by grade ten (18.3 percent), grade nine (18.0 percent) and grade eleven (17.6 percent).
  • Gender - Male dropouts were slightly more likely to return to school than female dropouts. Of all males who dropped out, 19.0 percent returned to school, while 17.3 percent of females who dropped out returned to school.
  • Race/Ethnicity - White students who dropped out were more likely to return to school than students of other racial/ethnic backgrounds. Of those white students who dropped out, 19.2 percent returned to school. Asian students (18.9 percent) were the second most likely to re-enroll, followed by Hispanic students (18.8 percent) and African-American students (14.2 percent). Native-American students (11.1 percent) were the least likely to re-enroll.
  • Vocational Students - Students at vocational-technical schools were less likely to return to school than students statewide. Of those vocational students who dropped out, 13.8 percent returned to school. Students at regional, county or independent vocational schools (19.2 percent) were nearly three times as likely to return to school than those at city or town vocational schools (7.2 percent).

Technical Information

Data Collection

Dropout figures were reported to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in the Year-End School Indicator Report for 1994-95. Individual public schools reported the number of students who dropped out over a 12-month period beginning July 1, 1994, and ending June 30, 1995. Schools subsequently reported the number of dropouts who returned to school by October 1, 1995, in a supplement to the Individual School Report, commonly referred to as the October Enrollment Report. As previously stated, in Massachusetts a dropout is defined as a student who leaves school prior to graduation for reasons other than transfer to another school. Dropouts were classified by gender within five racial/ethnic groups across grades six through twelve.

Dropout Rate Formulas

Annual Dropout Rate

In Massachusetts, the annual dropout rate is calculated by taking the number of dropouts over a single one-year period, from July 1 to June 30 of the following year, subtracting the number of those dropouts who returned to school by the following October 1, and dividing by the October 1 enrollment for that period. Enrollment data are derived from the Individual School Report. October 1, 1994, enrollment data were used to determine the 1995 annual dropout rate. Because students who drop out between July 1 and October 1 are counted as dropouts but are not included in the enrollment figure against which the number of dropouts is compared, the rates are slightly biased in an upwards direction to the degree to which students drop out prior to October 1.

Annual Dropout Rate = (number of dropouts - returned dropouts) / October enrollment * 100
Example: statewide annual dropout rate (1995) = (10,281 - 1,885) / 234,608 * 100 = 3.6%

Projected Four-Year Dropout Rate

The projected four-year dropout rate is determined by calculating the cumulative effect of several years of dropping out according to the formula shown below.

Projected Four-Year Dropout Rate = [1-(1- W) (1 - X) (1 - Y) (1 - Z)] * 100

W = Annual Dropout Rate in Grade 9
X = Annual Dropout Rate in Grade 10
Y = Annual Dropout Rate in Grade 11
Z = Annual Dropout Rate in Grade 12

Example: Statewide Adjusted Projected Four-Year Dropout Rate (1995) =
[1 - (1 - .031) (1 - .037) (1 - .045) (1 - .031)] * 100 = 14%

The methodology assumes that (1) current annual dropout rates for grades ten, eleven and twelve will remain constant over the next three years, and (2) students who drop out will not return to school at any time for the unadjusted rate or after October 1 of the following year for the adjusted rate. The grade-specific dropout rates (W,X,Y and Z) vary according to the particular population being examined. Grade-specific dropout rates for individual schools and school districts, as well as projected four-year dropout rates for individual schools, are available from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Accountability and Evaluation Services.


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Last Updated: March 1, 1996
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