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For Immediate Release
Monday, December 4, 2006
Contact:Heidi B. Perlman 781-338-3106

Statewide Dropout Rate Up Slightly to 3.8 Percent

MALDEN - The dropout rate for high schoolers rose to 3.8 percent during the 2004-2005 school year, up slightly from 3.7 percent the previous year, according to a new Department of Education report. In all, 11,145 students in grades 9-12 dropped out during the 2004-2005 school year.

When broken down by class, this translates into 3 percent of freshmen, 3.7 percent of sophomores, 4.1 percent of juniors and 4.7 percent of high school seniors. The 2000-2001 national dropout rate, according to the latest report by the National Center for Education Statistics, was 5 percent.

According to the report, 48 percent of 11th graders who dropped out and 69 percent of the 12th graders who dropped out had already earned their competency determinations by passing the Math and English MCAS exams.

"Students who drop out of high school are making a million dollar mistake, because that's how much less money they'll be qualified to earn in their lifetime," said Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll. "As educators it's critical that we do more to make sure our students see the value of a high school diploma and recognize the limits they will be setting on their future if they choose to drop out."

According to a 2004 study by the National Center for Public Policy & Higher Education, just 76 percent of Massachusetts students who enter high school as freshmen graduate four years later, and just 29 percent of those students eventually earn a college degree. Nationally the picture is even more bleak: just 68 percent of incoming freshmen graduate in four years and just 18 percent graduate from college.

A non-scientific survey conducted by the Department of Education in 2005 found that family problems and academics were the two main reasons why students drop out of high school. Other reasons included economics, frequent truancy, health issues and lack of interest in school. Many high achieving students have also reported that they dropped out to start working because they didn't think they could afford the cost of college tuition.

In an effort to decrease the number of dropouts, Massachusetts is one of three states working with Achieve, Inc. and Jobs for the Future to increase college and work readiness rates. The pilot district for the project is the Boston Public Schools. The state is also poised to launch a public information campaign funded by a National Governor's Association grant aimed at increasing the number of students who graduate from high school.

The 2004-2005 dropout rate was calculated based on enrollment figures reported through the Student Information Management System (SIMS) by each district on Oct. 1, 2004 and Oct. 1, 2005. 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 fourth 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 higher rate than White and Asian students in grades 9-12. In all, 9.1 percent (2,872) of Hispanics dropped out, as did 6.3 percent (1,701) of Blacks, 5.4 percent (48) of Native Americans, 2.8 percent (6,166) of Whites and 2.6 percent (358) of Asian students.
  • As has been the trend in previous years, more males than females dropped out: 4.4 percent (6,523) of male students dropped out, as compared to 3.2 percent (4,622) of female high schoolers.
  • 6.4 percent (4,461) of low-income students dropped out, as compared to 3 percent of students classified as non low-income. This is up from the previous year when 5.7 percent (3,692) of low income and 3.1 percent (6,941) of non low-income students dropped out.

Dropout Rates

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Last Updated: December 4, 2006
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