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For Immediate Release
Friday, October 21, 2005
Contact:Heidi B. Perlman 781-338-3106

Dropout Rate Increase Prompts Call For More Student Engagement

MALDEN - The dropout rate for high schoolers hit a high during the 2003-2004 school year, prompting Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll to renew his call for educators to do more to keep students engaged in their learning.

In his bi-monthly email message to Superintendents, Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll on Friday asked district leaders to do a careful analysis of why students dropped out in their communities, and to report their findings back to the Department of Education. These findings will be used to develop a set of statewide strategies to address the problem.

"We owe it to our young people to build a system that will ensure every single one of our students feels connected to and engaged in their learning and gets the support they need to reach full success in high school and graduate," he said. "This is, quite simply, our responsibility as educators."

According to the Department of Education report released Friday, the 2003-2004 dropout rate rose to 3.7 percent, a slight increase from 2002-2003, when the rate was 3.3 percent.

In all, 10,633 students in grades 9-12 dropped out during the 2003-2004 school year. When broken down by class, this translates into 2.6 percent of freshmen, 3.7 percent of sophomores, 4 percent of juniors and 4.8 percent of high school seniors.

Of the 2,736 juniors who dropped out that year, 55 percent had not yet earned their competency determination. Of the 2,976 seniors who dropped out, 35 percent had not yet earned their competency determination.

Driscoll said he was concerned by the increase in dropouts, particularly at the junior and senior level.

"What these numbers show is that MCAS is not primarily what is prompting our students to drop out," he said. "We need to study the numbers carefully over the next few years and find out the exact reasons why they are quitting. Some may have family circumstances or job issues, or perhaps this increase is a result of more accurate data collection. Regardless, it is clear that too many teenagers do not feel a positive connection to their schooling, and this must not continue."

In the 2002-2003 school year, the dropout rate was 3.3 percent, or 9,389 students. This translated into 2.6 percent of freshmen, 3.6 percent of sophomores, 3.7 percent of juniors and 3.5 percent of seniors.

The 2000-2001 national dropout rate, according to the latest report by the National Center for Education Statistics, was 5 percent.

The 2003-2004 dropout rate was calculated based on enrollment figures reported through the Student Information Management System (SIMS) by each district on Oct. 1, 2003 and Oct. 1, 2004. A dropout is defined as a student in grade 9-12 who leaves school prior to graduation for reasons other than to transfer to another school, and does not re-enroll before the following Oct. 1.

This is the third year that SIMS data has been used to calculate the dropout rate. Data collected using SIMS is considered more accurate than the data the state was able to collect before the system was developed. SIMS requires districts to submit individual student data, while the prior system required districts to submit only data in the aggregate.

Other statewide findings include:

  • Black and Hispanic students dropped out at a higherrate than White and Asian students in grades 9-12. Overall, Hispanic students dropped out at the highest rate in every grade: 6.6 percent in grade 9, 9.3 percent in grade 10, 8.1 percent in grade 11 and 10.1 percent in grade 12.
  • 18.2 percent of the students who were retained inthe 2003-2004 school year dropped out.
  • As has been the trend in previous years, more malesthan females dropped out: 4.3 percent (6,291) of male students dropped out, as compared to 3.1 percent (4,342) of female high schoolers.
  • 5.7 percent (3,692) of low income students droppedout, as compared to 3.1 percent (6,941) of students who are not classified as low income.
  • 5.4 percent (2,223)of special education studentsdropped out, as compared to 3.4 percent (8,410) of general education students.

View the full report Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document

Last Updated: October 21, 2005
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