Rise in Statewide Dropout Rate Prompts Call for New Strategies- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
For Immediate Release
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Contact:Heidi Guarino 781-338-3106 or JC Considine 781-338-3112

Rise in Statewide Dropout Rate Prompts Call for New Strategies

Improved Data Collection Makes 2006-2007 Numbers Most Accurate

MALDEN - The Commonwealth's high school dropout rate rose to 3.8 percent during the 2006-2007 school year, prompting statewide education officials to call for a renewed focus on developing dropout prevention strategies.

The annual dropout rate rose from 3.3 percent the previous year, in large part due to the state's ability to better track transfer students. In past years students reported as transfers were not counted as dropouts. Now the state's Student Information Management System (SIMS) is able to more accurately track students and can determine when students who say they are transferring to an in-state public school actually transfer, or drop out instead.

This improved accuracy of the data means that this year's dropout rate is the most accurate the Department has ever released.

"No matter what the dropout rate is, so long as any of our students are leaving high school before graduation, we have a serious problem," said Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) Chairman Paul Reville. "Until we develop the right set of strategies to meet the needs of every student we will never be able to ensure that they all leave our schools ready for college and careers."

The BESE will discuss both new and ongoing dropout prevention strategies at their March 25 meeting, when they are scheduled to discuss the new report.

In all, 11,436 students in grades 9-12 dropped out of school during the 2006-2007 school year. Of that total, 2,781 were in 12th grade, and 1,988 of those students (72 percent) had already earned a Competency Determination by passing the English and Mathematics MCAS exams.

"To succeed in today's economy, students need not just a high school diploma, but preferably a college degree," said Acting Education Commissioner Jeffrey Nellhaus. "Students who drop out are cutting their options short and it is up to us to find ways to stop them before they get out the door and never come back."

Dropouts are students who leave school between July 1 and June 30 of a given school year and do not return to school, graduate, or receive a GED by the following October 1. The annual dropout rate is different from the cohort graduation rate and cohort dropout rate, which provide information on a particular cohort or group of students over the course of high school.

According to the report:

  • 9.1 percent of Hispanic students, 6.4 percent of African-American students, 2.7 percent of White students, and 2.6 percent of Asian students enrolled in grades 9-12 during the 2006-2007 school year dropped out of school
  • Of the total number of dropouts, 51.2 percent were white, 29.5 percent were Hispanic, 14.5 percent were African-American, and 3.0 percent were Asian
  • More male students dropped out than female students: 57.8 percent were male, 42.2 percent were female
  • 22.3 percent of dropouts were special education students, 10.0 percent were limited English proficient
  • 71.5 percent of students in grade 12 and 49.4 percent of students in grade 11 dropped out of school having earned their Competency Determination

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education calculates the annual dropout rate each year by dividing the number of students who drop out over a one-year period by the October 1 grade 9-12 enrollment, multiplied by 100.

The full report, including local district and school numbers, is accessible online at www.doe.mass.edu/infoservices/reports/dropout/.

Last Updated: March 20, 2008

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