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For Immediate Release
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Contact:Heidi Guarino 781-338-3106 or JC Considine 781-338-3112

Statewide Dropout Rate Falls Below 3 Percent

Hispanic students, several urban districts show most impressive gains

MALDEN - Less than 3 percent of the state's high school students dropped out of school during the 2008-09 school year, marking the first time the statewide dropout rate has dipped below three percent in the past decade.

According to a new state report released Tuesday, the dropout rate for Hispanic students statewide showed the biggest improvement among the five largest racial/ethnic groups since last year, improving from 8.3 percent in 2007-08 to 7.5 percent in 2008-09.

In all, 8,585 students (2.9 percent) out of 292,372 high school students in grades 9-12 statewide dropped out of school during the 2008-09 school year, a 0.5 percentage point improvement from the 2007-2008 school year, and a 0.9 percentage point improvement from the 2006-2007 school year.

"This is terrific progress," said Governor Deval Patrick. "Every time a student gives up on school, we all pay a price. Congratulations to the teachers and students alike for sticking to it."

Several urban school districts made impressive gains by reducing the number of dropouts between 2007-08 and 2008-09, including:

    • Fall River had 179 fewer students drop out in 2008-09 than in 2007-08 (6.3 percent point improvement, from 12.5 to 6.2 percent);

    • Fitchburg had 44 fewer students drop out (2.9 percentage point improvement, from 9 to 6.1 percent);

    • Lawrence had 80 fewer students drop out (2.7 percentage point improvement, from 12.9 to 10.2 percent);

    • Everett had 40 fewer students drop out (2.1 percentage point improvement, from 5.9 to 3.8 percent);

    • Haverhill had 47 fewer students drop out (2 percentage point improvement, from 7.4 to 5.4 percent);

    • Holyoke had 39 fewer students drop out (1.8 percentage point improvement, from 11.6 to 9.8 percent).

"I am pleased to see that the statewide dropout rate is continuing to decline, but our work here is not finished," said Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "The value of a high school diploma has never been more important, and is a key determinant of a person's life chances. So long as any students are dropping out we have to do more to ensure we provide all students with the necessary supports to complete their education."

Annual dropout rates improved for African American/black, Asian, Hispanic, and white students since last year. During the 2008-09 school year, 5.6 percent of African American/black high school students dropped out of high school (down from 5.8 percent in 2007-08), as did 1.7 percent of Asian students (down from 2 percent), 7.5 percent of Hispanic students (down from 8.3 percent), and 1.8 percent of white students (down from 2.2 percent). Similar improvements were made by students with disabilities (dropout rate of 5 percent in 2008-09, down from 5.5 percent in 2007-08), limited English proficient students (8.5 percent, down from 8.8 percent), and low income students (5 percent, down from 5.5 percent).

Other results in the 2008-09 report include:

    • Statewide, 25.5 percent of all dropouts were 9th graders, 25.1 percent were 10th graders, 24.4 percent were 11th graders, and 25 percent were 12th graders.

    • 2.5 percent of female students and 3.4 percent of male students dropped out of high school during the 2008-09 school year.

    • 44.2 percent of all dropouts were white, 33.8 percent were Hispanic, 16.9 percent were African American/black, 2.8 percent were Asian, 41.3 percent were female, 58.7 percent were male, 26.3 percent were students with disabilities, 10.6 percent were limited English proficient, and 47.9 percent were low income.

    • 73.7 percent of 12th graders who dropped out and 53.1 percent of 11th graders who dropped out during the 2008-09 school year had already earned their Competency Determination by passing the grade 10 MCAS ELA and mathematics tests or retests.

"Today's students face a bleak future if they do not have a high school diploma," said Education Secretary Paul Reville. "The responsibility is ours to help students make connections between what they learn in school and what their prospects are after school. Reducing the dropout rate is a key factor in that work."

In October 2009, the Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery Commission released its report, Making the Connection. The Commission, which was authorized by the August 2008 legislation, An Act to Improve Dropout Prevention and Reporting of Graduation Rates, made recommendations on a series of key topics, including: setting a goal and timeline for reducing the statewide dropout rate; further developing an early warning system for students at risk of dropping out; creating a dropout prevention recovery grant program; and considering whether to raise the compulsory attendance age from 16 to 18. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education continues to pilot an Early Warning Indicator System in 24 urban districts to help identify students who are at risk of dropping out of school, and plans to expand that system to all districts in the coming years.

The Department 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: March 2, 2010
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