Office of Planning and Research
ESE Research Update, September 2017
Research and Reports from ESE
ESE commissioned the UMass Donahue Institute (UMDI) to conduct an evaluation of the Academic Support grant program that provides districts with funding to help students meet the Commonwealth's high school graduation requirement, called the Competency Determination. UMDI published the final report in June 2017. Students participating in the program were 1.4 times more likely to attain a Competency Determination than comparable, non-participating students. In addition, students who participated were 50 percent less likely to drop out than non-participants. Overall, the program might have prevented hundreds of students from dropping out, potentially saving the Commonwealth anywhere between $41 million and $131 million over the lifetime of participants. Nevertheless, the study showed that twelfth graders who participated in the program were 40 percent less likely to graduate one year after participating as non-participants. Eleventh graders showed no differences on graduation one year later. The authors were not able to isolate specific explanations for these graduation findings. However, they noted that participating twelfth graders would have failed the MCAS on more than one occasion, which could impact their motivation to pass future tests or fulfill other graduation requirements.
Research on Massachusetts Education Policy
In a May 2017 issue brief from MassBudget, Shaun Dougherty summarized his research on the impact of high-quality career and technical education on later academic outcomes. He found that students who were slightly above the admissions threshold at three oversubscribed regional vocational and technical high schools graduated at higher rates (80 percent) than similar students just below the threshold (70 percent). The enrolled students were also somewhat more likely to earn industry-recognized credentials, at 8 percent, compared with 3 percent. He found no differences in MCAS performance between the admitted students and those just below the admissions cutoff.
In July 2017, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published findings about school-related victimization of Massachusetts lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) students. In partnership with ESE, the group analyzed responses from the Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Surveys and found significant improvements in reported safety for LGB students from 1995 to 2015. In 1995, 25 percent of LGB students reported that they did not attend school at some point "because [they] felt [they] would be unsafe at school or on the way to and from school." By 2015, 13 percent of LGB students reported those safety-related issues. Similarly, LGB students reported fewer instances of being "threatened or injured … with a weapon such as a gun, knife, or club on school property," decreasing from 33 percent to 7 percent over ten years. The surveys included representative samples of high school students, around 3,000 to 4,000 per survey.