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For Immediate Release
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Contact:Melanie Winklosky 781-338-3316

Survey Finds Most Students Drop Out Over Family Problems and Academics

MALDEN - Family problems and academics are the two main reasons students drop out of high school and educators believe additional state aid is needed to remedy the problem, according to responses to an unscientific Department of Education survey completed by educators from 105 Massachusetts public school districts.

The four-question survey was distributed to every district superintendent in November 2005, following the release of the 2003-2004 dropout report. That report showed that the dropout rate had increased from 3.3 percent in the 2002-03 school year to 3.7 percent in the 2003-04 school year.

The open-ended survey questions asked why students drop out, what districts currently do to prevent it, what they saw as their biggest challenge in preventing dropouts, and how the state can help.

"The 2003-2004 report greatly concerned me," said Commissioner of Education David P. Driscoll. "It is our responsibility as educators to do everything we can to ensure that each of our students is fully engaged in their learning, gets the support they need to succeed in school and eventually graduate. We need to determine why more of our children are choosing to leave high school early, and then we have to do whatever is needed to put an end to this disturbing trend."

In an effort to decrease the number of dropouts, Massachusetts is one of three states that will be working with Achieve, Inc. and Jobs for the Future to increase college and work readiness rates. The pilot district for the project will be the Boston Public Schools.

In addition, education officials will gather and disseminate information about dropout prevention across the state over the next few years, and intend to seek additional funding to improve high school graduation rates and reduce barriers to learning.

According to the survey results, 46 percent of districts said students drop out because of academic issues, including failing classes, falling behind in coursework, and falling behind their peers. 46 percent of districts also said students drop out because of family issues, citing lack of parental support, a disruptive family life, or death in the family.

Among the other responses: economics (40 percent), frequent truancy (40 percent), students who drop out to obtain a GED (27 percent), health issues (23 percent), lack of interest (21 percent), pregnancy (21 percent), and MCAS concerns (13 percent).

Forty-five percent of districts said they had created alternative education programs to help reduce the dropout problem in their community, but 64 percent of respondents said the state needs to provide more money to make dropout prevention programs possible.

The top three responses to the three other questions were:

  1. What steps has your school or district taken to improve high school retention and graduation rates?

    Developed alternative education programs and learning options for students who experienced a lack of success in a traditional high school setting. (45 percent)

    Increased opportunities to develop personal connections between students and adults in the school (37 percent)

    Worked with parents and families to get them more engaged in their children''s education (32 percent)

  2. What do you see as the biggest challenge in decreasing the state's dropout rate?

    Insufficient funding makes it difficult to meet the needs of all students (50 percent)

    Finding ways to engage all students in their learning (29 percent)

    Personal and family issues, particularly lack of parental support for education (28 percent)

  3. What steps do you think the Department of Education can take to help curb this problem statewide?

    Increase funding for alternative education and dropout prevention programs. (64 percent)

    To meet the needs of the increasingly diverse student population, increase flexibility and access to vocational-technical programs and programs for non-traditional learners. (31 percent)

    Enhance support services by developing parent education programs, increasing the number of school counselors and provide more social services for students. (12 percent)

In all, 10,633 students in grades 9-12 dropped out during the 2003-2004 school year. When broken down by class, this translated 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.

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.

Download PDF Document Download MS WORD Document View the complete 2003-2004 dropout report

Download PDF Document Download MS WORD Document View the full dropout survey report

Last Updated: April 18, 2006
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