Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Go to Selected Program Area
Massachusetts State Seal
News School/District Profiles School/District Administration Educator Services Assessment/Accountability Family & Community  
> Administration Finance/Grants PK-16 Program Support Information Services  
For Immediate Release
Thursday, January 21, 2016
Contact:Jacqueline Reis, 781-338-3115

Massachusetts' Four-Year Graduation Rate Improves for Ninth Consecutive Year

MALDEN - The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education today announced that the state's four-year graduation rate improved for the ninth consecutive year, with 87.3 percent of students who entered as ninth graders in 2011-12 – or who transferred into that same cohort at any time during high school – graduating within four years. In addition to the overall improvement in the graduation rate, the graduation rate among Hispanic students exceeded 70 percent for the first time, the graduation rate for urban districts crossed the 75 percent mark, and the graduation rate for black females exceeded 80 percent. The state's annual dropout rate declined to 1.9 percent in 2014-15, dipping below 2 percent to the lowest overall rate in more than three decades.

"I'm pleased to see higher graduation rates across the Commonwealth, which represent great progress for our communities and education system," said Governor Charlie Baker. "Our administration is focused on offering a quality education to every student regardless of their ZIP code and will keep offering students strong opportunities after high school in postsecondary education and the workforce."

"These impressive results reflect the dedication of the Commonwealth's educators, counselors and administrators to keeping all students engaged in school," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester. "A high school diploma is a necessary, although increasingly insufficient, credential that our students need as they move on to life after high school. Our work now is to ensure that the high school diploma represents readiness for college, a career and participation in civic life."

According to the data released this year, 87.3 percent of the 72,474 students in the 2015 cohort graduated within four years, an increase of 1.2 percentage points from the 2014 cohort and an increase of 7.4 percentage points from the 2006 cohort, when the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education first began calculating the cohort graduation rate. A cohort is comprised of students who entered high school as ninth graders or who transferred into the same cohort at any time during high school.

The dropout reduction – from 3.8 percent (2006-7) to 1.9 percent (2014-15) – resulted in less than half as many students dropping out in 2014-15 (5,346) than in 2006-07 (11,436). Four hundred fewer students dropped out in 2014-15 than in 2013-14, and 6,090 fewer students dropped out than in 2006-7, when the annual dropout rate was at a high mark of 3.8 percent.

All major subgroups improved their four-year graduation rates compared to the previous year. The largest gains were made by Hispanic males (up 3.4 percentage points from 64.4 to 67.8 percent), black females (up 3.1 percentage points from 79.2 to 82.3 percent), and Hispanic students overall (up 3 percentage points from 69.2 to 72.2 percent). Improvements for other major subgroups were: low-income/economically disadvantaged students overall: up 2.7 percentage points from 75.5 to 78.2 percent, students with disabilities: up 0.8 percentage points from 69.1 to 69.9 percent, English language learners: up 0.1 percent from 63.9 to 64.0 percent, male students: up 1.3 percentage points from 83.4 to 84.7 percent, female students: up 1 percentage point from 89 to 90 percent, black students overall: up 2.6 percentage points from 74.9 to 77.5 percent, white students: up 0.7 percentage points from 90.9 to 91.6 percent and Asian students: up 0.3 percentage points from 92.1 to 92.4 percent.

Over the past five years (between 2009-10 and 2014-15), the urban school districts that have made the largest gains in reducing the number of dropouts included:

  • Boston, which had 430 fewer students drop out in 2014-15 than in 2009-10, a 36 percent change;
  • Springfield, which had 382 fewer students drop out in 2014-15 than in 2009-10, a 51.8 percent change;
  • Lawrence, which had 150 fewer students drop out in 2014-15 than in 2009-10, a 48.2 percent change;
  • New Bedford, which had 146 fewer students drop out in 2014-15 than in 2009-10, a 61.6 percent change; and
  • Worcester, which had 136 fewer students drop out in 2014-15 than in 2009-10, a 52.9 percent change.

In addition, several urban school districts had annual dropout rates below the statewide dropout rate of 1.9 percent. They include: Leominster (0.7 percent), Cambridge (1.0), Salem (1.2), Taunton (1.4), Quincy (1.6), Worcester (1.7) and Lowell (1.8).

Several other urban school districts had four-year graduation rates above the statewide rate. They include: Cambridge (91.5 percent), Leominster (90.7 percent), Quincy (90.1 percent) and Salem (89.2 percent).

In October 2015, ESE was awarded $200,000 through the America's Promise Alliance for a multi-year effort to raise statewide graduation rates. The Department is using the grant to create a coalition of up to 10 school districts to improve high school graduation rates for students whose first language is not English. Eight districts have confirmed their involvement so far: Boston, Brockton, Chelsea, Holyoke, New Bedford, Worcester, Everett and Revere.

In October 2009, when the state's annual dropout rate was more than 3 percent, the Massachusetts Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery Commission made a number of recommendations to dramatically reduce that rate. A number of those recommendations have been fulfilled, including expansion of what is now called the Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS) to make it available to all districts for grades 1-12 and reformed discipline laws to provide continued education for suspended and expelled students. The state, using federal High School Graduation Initiative funds, has also created a dropout prevention and recovery program, which was another of the commission's recommendations.

Graduation rate data is available online at and For additional information on the annual dropout rate, including school and district numbers, go to and


Last Updated: January 21, 2016
E-mail this page| Print View| Print Pdf  
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Search · Site Index · Policies · Site Info · Contact ESE