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Information Services - Statistical Reports

Dropout Rates 1997 - 1998

Introduction

The following report provides information on students who dropped out of Massachusetts public schools during the 1997-98 reporting year (July 1, 1997, to June 30, 1998). Dropouts are defined as students in grades nine through twelve who leave school prior to graduation for reasons other than transfer to another school. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reports a dropout measure that was developed by the U.S. Department of Education. According to this measure, students who drop out during a particular reporting year, but return to school by October 1 of the following year, are referred to in this report as returned dropouts, and are not counted as dropouts. The dropout rate is the number of students who drop out over a one-year period, from July 1 to June 30, minus the number of returned dropouts, divided by the October 1 enrollment. This measure will eventually be adopted by all states, allowing for comparisons between states and with the national average.

 
A dropout is defined as a student in grade nine through twelve who leaves school prior to graduation for reasons other than transfer to another school, and does not re-enroll before the following October 1.


The dropout rate is the number of students who drop out over a one-year period, from July 1 to June 30, minus the number of returned dropouts, divided by the October 1 enrollment.
 

This is the sixth consecutive year that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has reported dropout data using this measure. Prior to 1993, the Department reported a dropout rate that counted all students who dropped out of school regardless of whether they returned to school. This rate, called the unadjusted dropout rate, is not included in the textual analysis section of this report. Therefore, data in this section of the report are not comparable to data for years prior to 1993. Data comparable with earlier years are available from the Department. The unadjusted rate for 1998 is included in the list of annual dropouts for schools and districts at the end of this report.

Analysis of Dropout Rates

During the 1997-98 reporting year, a total of 8,582 ninth- through twelfth-graders dropped out of Massachusetts public schools and did not return to school by October 1, 1998. These students represented 3.4 percent of the 252,633 students enrolled in grades nine through twelve in the state's public schools on October 1, 1997.

In addition to the 8,582 dropouts, another 1,611 students dropped out of school during the 1997-98 reporting year and were not in school at the end of the year but returned to school by October 1, 1998. These students, referred to in this report as returned dropouts, represented 15.8 percent of the total number of students who dropped out during the 1997-98 school year. The Department does not collect data on students who drop out of school in a reported year, but return before the end of the same school year. The 1997-98 annual dropout rate of 3.4 percent was unchanged from the previous year, and remains as the lowest rate in the five years this measure has been used.

Based on the annual dropout rate for each grade level, it is projected that 13 percent of the students who entered ninth grade in the 1997-98 reporting year will have dropped out by the end of their senior year in 2001. This statistic, known as the projected four-year dropout rate, is an estimation of the cumulative effect of four years of students dropping out of school

Annual Dropout Rates by School and District

Projected Four-Year Dropout Rates by District

Table 1. Dropout Rates: 1997-98
 EnrollmentNumber of Dropouts Annual RateProjected Four-year Rate*Returns as % of Dropouts**
Total, Grade 9-12 252,633 8,582 3.4% -- 15.8%
Grade
Grade 9 72,257 1,928 2.7% 13% 15.9%
Grade 10 65,798 2,351 3.6% -- 16.0%
Grade 11 60,117 2,507 4.2% -- 15.0%
Grade 12 54,461 1,796 3.3% -- 16.5%
Gender
Male 128,174 4,983 3.9% 15% 15.6%
Female 124,459 3,620 2.9% 11% 15.6%
Race/Ethnic Group
African-American 21,216 1,289 6.1% 22% 11.0%
Asian 10,602 374 3.5% 13% 20.4%
Hispanic 21,951 1,808 8.2% 29% 15.2%
Native American 564 30 5.3% 21% 6.3%
White198,300 5,102 2.6% 10% 16.5%
Vocational-Technical Schools*** 31,967 943 2.9% 12% 12.8%
City/Town 5,591 283 5.1% 19% 10.4%
Regional/County/ Independent 26,376 660 2.5% 10% 13.7%

* Percentage of ninth graders (Class of 2001) projected to drop out over a four-year period
** Percentage of 1997-98 dropouts who returned to school by Oct. 1, 1998
*** Figures do not include vocational-technical students enrolled in comprehensive high schools

for the Class of 2001. The projected four-year dropout rate of 13 percent for the class of 2001 also was the same as the class of 2000's rate. The projected four-year rate for the class of 1998 was 14 percent. When comparing dropouts to graduates for the class of 1998 over those four years, the actual dropout rate is estimated to be 14 percent as well. This rate was computed by adding the number of dropouts each year for the class of 1998 and dividing that number by the number of graduates plus the total number of dropouts. The Department can not guarantee the accuracy of this rate because it is calculated with aggregate data rather than student level data. It is only an estimated rate. If districts and/or schools are interested in calculating dropout rates for the class of 1998 for their individual district or school, the Department recommends that student level data be used to calculate the rate. At present, the Department does not have student level data available for this purpose. Progress is being made to collect and analyze data at the student level; however, the ability to provide the data for this rate is still at least four years away.

Table 2. Annual Dropout Rates: 1994-1998
1993-94 1994-95 1995-96 1996-97 1997-98
Total Dropout Rate, Grade 9-12 3.7% 3.6% 3.4% 3.4% 3.4%
Total Number of Dropouts 8,512 8,396 8,177 8,453 8,582
Grade 9-12 Enrollment 232,046 234,608 240,347 246,757 252,633
Grade
Grade 9 2.9% 3.1% 2.8% 2.8% 2.7%
Grade 10 4.2% 3.7% 3.7% 3.8% 3.6%
Grade 11 4.4% 4.5% 3.9% 4.0% 4.2%
Grade 12 3.3% 3.1% 3.3% 3.2% 3.3%
Gender
Male 4.2% 4.1% 3.9% 3.9% 3.9%
Female 3.2% 3.0% 2.9% 3.0% 2.9%
Race/Ethnic Group
African-American 6.4% 7.3% 5.9% 5.6% 6.1%
Asian 3.3% 3.0% 2.3% 2.7% 3.5%
Hispanic 9.1% 9.3% 7.9% 8.2% 8.2%
Native American 9.3% 5.2% 4.5% 6.0% 5.3%
White 2.8% 2.6% 2.7% 2.7% 2.6%
Vocational-Technical Schools* 3.2% 4.0% 3.4% 3.2% 2.9%
City/Town 4.8% 11.1% 5.7% 6.1% 5.1%
Regional/County/Independent 2.8% 2.5% 2.9% 2.6% 2.5%
* Figures do not include vocational-technical students enrolled in comprehensive high schools

The statewide dropout rate masks the wide disparity in individual school rates and the persistent high rates of some schools. Among individual schools the dropout rate ranged from a low of zero percent to a high of 41 percent1 . Thirteen schools reported no dropouts in 1997-98, an increase from 12 schools the previous year, but a decrease from 18 schools in 1994-95. Another 69 schools reported dropout rates of one percent or less in 1997-98. Fourteen schools reported dropout rates greater than 10 percent. These 14 schools comprised 4.5 percent of the state's grade nine through twelve enrollment, but accounted for 20.5 percent of the state's dropouts.

1 Because dropout rates for schools with low enrollments are overly sensitive to small variations in the number of dropouts, the analysis of the distribution of dropout rates excludes schools with a grade 9-12 enrollment of fewer than 75 (25 schools in 1997-98).

Table 3. Projected Four-Year Dropout Rates:
Classes of 1997-2001
  Class of 1997 Class of 1998Class of 1999Class of 2000 Class of 2001
 
Total 14% 14% 13% 13% 13%
 
Gender
Male 16% 16% 15% 15% 15%
Female 12% 12% 11% 11% 11%
 
Race/Ethnic Group
African-American 23% 26% 22% 21% 22%
Asian 13% 12% 9% 11% 13%
Hispanic 31% 32% 28% 28% 29%
Native American 33% 19% 17% 23% 21%
White 11% 10% 11% 10% 10%
 
Vocational-Technical Schools* 12% 15% 13% 13% 12%
City/Town 18% 37% 21% 22% 19%
Regional/County/Independent 11% 10% 11% 10% 10%
 
* Figures do not include vocational-technical students enrolled in comprehensive high schools


Table 4. Distribution of Annual Dropout Rates:
1996-1998
  Number and Percent of Schools*
Annual Rate (%)1995-961996-971997-98
  # % # % # %
0 10 3.3 12 3.9 13 4.2
0.1 - 1.0 62 20.5 53 17.2 69 22.2
1.1 - 2.5 95 31.5 101 32.8 89 28.6
2.6 - 5.0 83 27.5 84 27.3 93 29.9
5.1 - 7.5 28 9.3 32 10.4 26 8.3
7.6 - 10.0 12 4.0 11 3.6 7 2.3
10.1 and above 12 4.0 15 4.9 14 4.5
Total Number of Schools 300 302 311
*Excludes schools with enrollments fewer than 75

Results for Selected Student Populations

Because the dropout rate varies among specific student populations, examining the rate for specific populations is important in developing and targeting dropout prevention efforts. The data collected allow for an analysis by grade level, gender, race/ethnicity, and certain types of schools.

Grade

  • Students in grade eleven dropped out at a higher rate than did students in other grades. The 1997-98 dropout rate for eleventh-graders was 4.2 percent, followed by 3.6 percent for tenth-graders, and 3.3 percent for twelfth-graders. Ninth-graders had the lowest rate at 2.7 percent. This pattern of dropout rates by grade has remained consistent over time.
  • Over the last five reporting years, the dropout rates for the combined grades has remained steady. Each grade level has neither consistently decreased nor increased, but instead has fluctuated slightly from year to year.
Figure 1

Gender

  • Consistent with previous years, the 1997-98 dropout rate was higher for males than for females. The annual rate was 3.9 percent for males, a percentage point higher than the rate of 2.9 percent for females.
  • The dropout rate for males remained the same in 1997-98 as it was the prior year. The dropout rate of 2.9 percent for females decreased slightly from 3.0 percent the previous year.
  • The projected four-year rates, 15 percent for males and 11 percent for females, were unchanged from the prior year.

Race/Ethnicity

  • Consistent with previous years, the dropout rates in 1997-98 varied according to race/ethnicity. As in the prior four years, the rate of 8.2 percent for Hispanic students was the highest among the five race/ethnicity categories. The annual rate was 5.3 percent for Native American students and 6.1 percent for African-American students. The rate for white students was 2.6 and for Asian students was 3.5 percent.
  • Although in the prior year the rate had declined, the annual dropout rate for African-American students increased from 5.6 percent to 6.1 percent from 1996-97 to 1997-98. The rate for white students decreased slightly from 2.7 to 2.6 percent. The rate for Asian students increased from the prior year, from 2.7 to 3.5 percent. The rate remained the same for Hispanic students. The rate for Native American students decreased from 6.0 to 5.3 percent. The rate for Native American students is susceptible to wide fluctuation due to a low number of Native American students enrolled in schools.
  • The projected four-year dropout rate for the Class of 2001 showed similar disparity by race/ethnicity. The rate was highest for Hispanic students at 29 percent, followed by African-American students at 22 percent and Native American students at 21 percent. The rate was 13 percent for Asian students and 10 percent for white students.
Figure 2

Vocational-Technical Schools

  • In 1997-98, the dropout rate for students enrolled in grades nine through twelve in the state's vocational-technical schools was 2.9 percent, lower than the statewide rate. Of the vocational students, 82.5 percent attended regional, county, or independent vocational-technical schools, and the remainder attended vocational-technical schools that were part of city and town school systems. The annual dropout rate of 5.1 percent for city/town vocational-technical schools was approximately twice the rate of 2.5 percent for regional, county and independent vocational-technical schools.
  • The annual dropout rate for all vocational-technical schools decreased from 3.2 to 2.9 percent between 1996-97 and 1997-98. Figure 3 illustrates the dropout rate for vocational schools compared to other schools for the 1997-98 school year. The rate for regional vocational-technical schools also decreased, from 2.6 to 2.5 percent, and the rate for city/town vocational-technical schools decreased from 6.1 to 5.1 percent.
  • The projected four-year dropout rate for all vocational-technical schools was 12 percent. The projected four-year rate was 19 percent for city/town vocational-technical schools and 10 percent for regional, county and independent vocational-technical schools.
Figure 3

Charter Schools

  • During the 1997-98 school year, a total of 858 students in grades nine through twelve attended charter schools. Of these, 19 students dropped out, resulting in a dropout rate of 2.2 percent. Of the ten charter schools with any of the grades nine through twelve, five had no dropouts, two had a dropout rate between 0.1 and 1.0 percent, one had a dropout rate of 1.5 percent, one had a rate of 5.8 percent, and one had a rate of 8.3 percent.

Returned Dropouts

Of all students who dropped out during the 1997-98 reporting year, 15.8 percent returned to school by October 1, 1998. These students are referred to as returned dropouts. This percentage is lower than it was the prior year, when 17.6 percent of all dropouts returned to school.

  • The percentage of returned dropouts varied by school. Of the 315 schools that had any of the grades nine through twelve and had dropouts during the 1997-98 reporting year, a majority (almost 72%) had less than 20 percent of their dropouts re-enroll in school.
  • Approximately 31 percent (98 schools) had none of their dropouts return to school by October 1, 1998. Three schools had all of their dropouts return to school.
Table 5. Returned Dropouts as a Percentage of All Dropouts, 1997-98*
Returned DropoutsNumber of SchoolsPercent of Schools
0% 98 31.1%
1-20% 128 40.6%
21-40% 69 21.9%
41-60% 15 4.8%
61-80% 2 .6%
81-99% 0 0%
100% 3 1.0%
* Table includes only those schools who had dropouts

The percentage of returned dropouts also varied among specific populations of students. In other words, certain student populations were more likely to return to school than others.

  • Grade- Grade levels varied among those students who had dropped out, but returned to school. In 1997-98, students in grade twelve (16.5 percent) were most likely to return to school, followed by grade ten (16.0 percent), grade nine (15.9 percent) and grade eleven (15.0 percent). The figures for grades ten through twelve all showed a decrease from the previous year, while grade nine showed an increase.
  • Gender- Male and female dropouts were equally likely to return to school in 1997-98. The percentage of returned dropouts for both, 15.6 percent, is a decrease from the previous year, when 17.4 percent of all males who dropped out returned to school, and 17.4 percent of females who dropped out returned to school.
  • Race/Ethnicity- Asian students who dropped out were more likely to return to school than students of other racial/ethnic backgrounds. Of the Asian students who dropped out, 20.4 percent returned to school. White students (16.5 percent) were the second most likely to re-enroll, followed by Hispanic students (15.2 percent) and African-American students (11.0 percent). Native-American students (6.3 percent) were the least likely to re-enroll. For Asian students, the percentage of dropouts who returned to school increased from the previous year. For all other race/ethnicity groups, the percentage of dropouts who returned to school declined from the previous year.
  • Vocational-Technical- Students at vocational-technical schools were less likely to return to school than were students statewide. Of the vocational students who dropped out, 12.8 percent returned to school, a decrease from 14.4 percent the prior year. Students at city or town vocational schools were less likely to return to school than were students at regional, county or independent vocational schools (10.4 vs. 13.7 percent).
  • Charter Schools- Of the 21 students who dropped out of charter schools, 9.5 percent (two students) returned to school by October 1, 1998.

Technical Information

Data Collection

In accordance with the U.S. Department of Education definition, a school dropout in Massachusetts is defined as a student who leaves school prior to graduation for reasons other than transfer to another school, and does not return to school by October 1 of the following reporting year. Individual public schools reported to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education the number of students who dropped out over a 12-month period beginning July 1, 1997, and ending June 30, 1998. Dropout figures were reported in the Year-End School Indicator Report for 1997-98. Schools then reported the number of dropouts who returned to school by October 1, 1998, in a supplement to the Individual School Report, commonly referred to as the October Enrollment Report. In both of these reports, dropouts were classified by gender within five racial/ethnic groups across grades six through twelve. Although the Department collects data on students in grades six through eight, the reported rate represents grades nine through twelve. Data on grades six through eight are available from the Department.

Dropout Rate Formulas

Annual Dropout Rate

In Massachusetts, the annual dropout rate is the number of dropouts from grades nine through twelve over a single one-year reporting period, minus the number of those dropouts who returned to school by the following October 1, divided by the October 1 enrollment for that reporting period. Enrollment data for October 1, 1997, collected in the Individual School Report, were used to determine the 1997-98 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 may be slightly inflated to the extent 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 (1997-98) =
(10,193 - 1,611) / 252,633 * 100 = 3.4%

Projected Four-Year Dropout Rate

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

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 (class of 2001) =
[1 - (1 - .027) (1 - .036) (1 - .042) (1 - .033)] * 100 = 13%

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 after October 1 of the following year. 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 Accountability and Targeted Assistance unit at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.



Last Updated: September 1, 1999
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