New Report Shows Continued Increase in Four-Year Graduation Rate- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
For Immediate Release
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Contact:Heidi Guarino 781-338-3106 or JC Considine 781-338-3112

New Report Shows Continued Increase in Four-Year Graduation Rate

Attending the Same High School All Four Years Seen As Indicator of Success

MALDEN - More than 81 percent of students who entered high school as ninth graders in 2004 graduated in 2008, marking the second year in a row the state's four-year, on-time graduation rate has increased.

In all, 81.2 percent of the nearly 77,400 students in 2008 "cohort" – those who entered as 9th graders in 2004 or who transferred into the appropriate grade – graduated in four years, up from 80.9 percent in 2007 and 79.9 percent in 2006. Statewide, more than 80 percent of students graduated in four years in 215 out of 284 school districts, and in 236 out of 363 high schools.

According to the results, students who remained in the same high school all four years fared better than their more transient peers: 86.2 percent of students who attended only one high school graduated in four years, as compared to students who attended two schools (58.7 percent), three schools (39.7 percent), or four or more schools (28 percent).

"A high school diploma is a student's gateway to higher education, a career and life," said Mitchell D. Chester, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner. "I am pleased to see our graduation rate continuing to rise, but remain concerned about the impact that transience, poverty and ethnicity continue to have on student achievement. Our top priority has to be to ensure every student is educated to the same high standards and provided with the same opportunities and support they need to complete high school and graduate college and career-ready."

All states are required to submit graduation rate data to the U.S. Department of Education for federal accountability purposes under No Child Left Behind.

The 2007 graduation rate for students who required a fifth year of high school shows that for some, an extra year is the key to success: In 2008, the statewide five-year rate for the 2007 cohort was 84.0 percent, up from their four-year rate of 80.9 percent.

Across the state the graduation rate for African-American students rose by 3.2 percent over 2007 to 68.4 percent, but declined slightly for Hispanic students to 58.3 percent, the lowest of all racial and ethnic student subgroups.

Of particular concern are the results for Hispanic males: Just 52.6 percent graduated in four years. Of those who did not graduate, 15 percent returned for a fifth year and 2.3 percent got a GED. Of the Hispanic males who did not graduate after four years, 28 percent dropped out of high school.

Statewide, 6 percent of all students returned for a fifth year, 2 percent received a GED and 9.9 percent dropped out.

"The number of students who are dropping out greatly concerns me," Chester said. "This report clearly identifies several subgroups of students who are not receiving the services and support they need to be successful. I encourage school districts to take a close look at the data for their high schools and begin to develop an action plan to ensure all students graduate from high school fully prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century."

Other findings about the four-year graduation rate for the 2008 cohort included:

  • Of the non-graduates in the 2008 cohort, 6 percent are still in school, less than one percent did not earn a high school diploma after completing four years of high school, 2 percent earned a GED, 9.9 percent dropped out, and 0.2 percent were expelled.
  • Students in urban districts had a four-year graduation rate of 63.6 percent, a 0.5 percentage point increase between 2007 and 2008.
  • The four-year graduation rate for limited English Proficient (LEP) students was 55.8 percent, a 2.5 percentage point increase since 2007, and 64.1 percent for special education students, a 1.3 percentage point increase. But the rate among low income students declined between 2007 (65.2 percent) and 2008 (64.8 percent).
  • More than 60 percent of the students in the 2008 cohort who have returned for a fifth year have earned their Competency Determination by passing both the ELA and Math MCAS exams. According to the 2006-07 dropout report, 71.5 percent of the students in grade 12 and 49.4 percent of students in grade 11 who dropped out of school before graduation had earned their Competency Determination.

For more information on the graduation rate, look online at and

Last Updated: February 5, 2009

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