New Report Finds High School Dropout Rate Down- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
For Immediate Release
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Contact:Heidi Guarino 781-338-3106 or JC Considine 781-338-3112

New Report Finds High School Dropout Rate Down

Patrick Administration Credits Dropout Prevention Efforts for Improvement

MALDEN - A new state report has found that the Commonwealth's high school dropout rate declined to 3.4 percent during the 2007-08 school year, prompting praise from the Patrick Administration for the success of dropout prevention efforts at high schools across the state.

According to the report, 9,959 students (3.4 percent) out of nearly 296,000 high school students statewide in grades 9 through 12 dropped out during the 2007-08 school year. This is down from 11,436 students (3.8 percent) in 2006-07.

Of the students who dropped out, 2,520 were 12th graders, and 1,782 of those students (70.7 percent) had already met the state's requirement for high school graduation by earning the Competency Determination (CD) comprised of passing the grade 10 MCAS English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics tests or retests.

"The fact that our high school dropout rate – already among the lowest in the nation – continues to go down is a credit to our tenacious students and their families, teachers and school leadership," said Governor Deval Patrick. "Our goal of educating all students to proficiency will only be achieved if our students have the support and encouragement at all levels to meet and complete the challenges of our high standards."

"A high school diploma has never meant more to a student's future success than it does today," said Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "These numbers show that we are moving in the right direction, but we still have more work to do to ensure that all students at risk of dropping out are given the tools and support they need to stay in school."

In 2008, Governor Deval Patrick and partners in the Legislature established the Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery Commission, to survey dropout prevention and recovery best practices and programs nationwide and evaluate existing programs currently in use. Spurred by the Governor's Readiness Project, the Commission is a key component of his Education Action Agenda. The group is expected to release a set of recommendations in the coming months.

"We cannot rest until we have made every effort to reach out to students at risk of dropping out to ensure they are receiving the support in and out of school they need to be successful," said Secretary Reville. "Good data is the first step in that process and our work at the Commission is focused on helping districts identify what factors contribute to students dropping out much earlier in their education."

Of all dropouts in 2007-08, 24.1 percent were 9th graders, 26.7 percent were 10th graders, 23.8 percent were 11th graders, and 25.3 percent were 12th graders.

Despite overall improvements since last year, Hispanic and African American students dropped out at a higher rate than their white and Asian peers. According to the report, 8.3 percent of Hispanic students, 5.8 percent of African American students, 2.2 percent of white students and 2 percent of Asian students dropped out during the 2007-2008 school year. Similar gaps existed between special education (5.5 percent) and general education (3 percent) students, limited English proficient (LEP; 8.8 percent) and non-LEP (3.2 percent) students, and low income (5.5 percent) and non-low income (2.6 percent) students.

According to the 2007-08 report:

  • 2.9 percent of female students and 3.8 percent of male students enrolled in grades 9-12 during the 2007-08 school year dropped out of school
  • Of the total number of dropouts (9,959), 47.8 percent were white, 31.8 percent were Hispanic, 15.3 percent were African American/black, 2.8 percent were Asian, 24.4 percent were special education, 9.6 percent were LEP, 43.9 percent were low income, 43.1 percent were female, and 56.9 percent were male
  • 70.7 percent of students in grade 12 who dropped out and 51.8 percent of students in grade 11 who dropped out had earned their Competency Determination by passing the grade 10 MCAS ELA and mathematics tests or retests

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) calculates the annual dropout rate 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. "Dropouts" are defined as students who leave school between July 1 and June 30 of a given year and do not return, graduate, or receive a GED by the following October 1.

The full report, including local district and school numbers, is accessible online at

Last Updated: April 16, 2009

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