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For Immediate Release
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Contact:Heidi B. Perlman 781-338-3106 or Kimberly Beck 781-338-3105

2003 Retention Numbers Up Slightly, Ninth Graders Retained At Highest Rate

MALDEN - High school freshmen were retained at the highest rate in 2003, allowing the ninth graders one extra year to prepare for the high stakes 10th grade MCAS exam, according to a new report released by the Department of Education on Tuesday.

In all, 23,551 students had not progressed to the next grade in the 2002-2003 school year, or 2.6 percent of the nearly 900,000 students enrolled in grades 1 through 12. This is up from 1995, when 16,213 students were retained, or 2 percent of the total student enrollment in those grades.

Of the 2002-2003 total, 29 percent (6,979) of the students retained were ninth graders, or 8.5 percent of the freshman class that year. This represents a slight increase from the past two school years, when the retention rate has been 8.4 percent.

“These numbers show that the age of social promotion is finally over,” said Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll. “Students shouldn’t move from one grade to the next just because they’ve completed the year, they should progress only when they’re ready. As it always has been, ninth grade is a crossroads for high schoolers, and if they are not ready for the demands of 10th grade and beyond, I fully support retaining them for a year until they are fully prepared.”

Grades 9, 10 and 11 accounted for more than 60 percent of all of the retentions. Of every grade, fifth graders were retained at the lowest rate of .7 percent, or 550 students.

Among ethnic groups, African American and Hispanic students were retained at a higher rate than all other students. In total, 5.6 percent of African-Americans and 5.8 percent of Hispanics were retained. Among ninth graders, 16.6 percent of African-Americans and 17.4 percent of Hispanic were retained.

Just 1.8 percent of all white students were retained, including 5.9 percent of white ninth graders.

“Twelve years might be the right amount of time for most people to be in school, but clearly giving some students more time is working in Massachusetts,” Driscoll said. “While our retention numbers have gone up, our dropout numbers have remained steady, and our MCAS results have only gone up. To me, this isn’t holding students back, it’s helping them grow so they can eventually move forward at their own speed.”

To view the full report, including district results, look online at

Last Updated: June 15, 2004
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