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For Immediate Release
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Contact:JC Considine 781-338-3112

State's Four-Year Graduation Rate Improves for the 6th Straight Year

Annual dropout rate falls to 2.5 percent – the lowest rate in decades

MALDEN - The Patrick-Murray Administration today announced that the state's four-year graduation rate improved for the sixth consecutive year, and gains made by African American, Hispanic, and high needs students since last year outpaced other student groups. The state's annual dropout rate declined to 2.5 percent in 2011-12, the fourth consecutive year below 3 percent and lowest overall rate in decades. According to data released today, 84.7 percent of 73,479 students in the 2012 cohort graduated within four years, an increase of 1.3 percentage points from the 2011 cohort and 4.8 percentage points from the 2006 cohort, when the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) first began calculating the cohort graduation rate. A cohort is comprised of students who entered high school as 9th graders or who transferred into the same cohort at any time over high school. "I am proud to see more students graduating on time, because now more than ever, having a high school diploma is essential to success in our 21st Century global economy," said Governor Deval Patrick. "But until we close the achievement gap, our work is not done, and additional investments in education are critical to ensuring all students have the opportunity to succeed." The Patrick-Murray Administration has been working on a number of fronts to reduce the number of students dropping out of high school each year, but there is still more to be done to ensure that every student in Massachusetts persists through high school and graduates prepared for the rigor of college and the workplace. As part of the Administration's FY2014 budget released this week, Governor Patrick proposed new investments in education, including K-12 school aid (Chapter 70), early childhood education, and higher education affordability, to create opportunity across the Commonwealth and to keep the state's economy growing. Those investments, including funding for extended learning time in middle school grades and targeted supports for students in Gateway Cities, total approximately $550 million in the first year and increase to nearly $1 billion annually over the next four years. Last year's improvement in the state's annual dropout rate meant that 843 fewer students dropped out in 2011-12 than during the previous year, and 4,385 fewer students dropped out than in 2006-07, when the annual dropout rate was at a high mark of 3.8 percent. "This is tremendous news and a clear signal that we are making strides to keep more students engaged and on a path to earning a diploma that is essential to their future success," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "Our schools deserve all the credit for identifying students at-risk of dropping out earlier in their schooling and providing key interventions to support their learning and motivate them to stay in school and graduate." All major subgroups improved their four-year graduation rates since last year. The largest gains were made by limited English Proficient students (+4.9 percentage points, from 56.2 for the 2011 cohort to 61.1% for the 2012 cohort), Hispanic students (+3.6 percentage points, from 61.9 to 65.5%), and students with disabilities (+3 percentage points, from 65.6 to 68.6%). The improvements for other major subgroups were: African American students (+2.7, from 70.7 to 73.4%); Asian (+1.8, from 87.7 to 89.5%); White (+0.6, from 89.1 to 89.7%); female students (+1.2, from 86.5 to 87.7%); male students (+1.3, from 80.5 to 81.8%); and low income students (+2.6, from 69.8 to 72.4%). "Today's news is a testament to the hard work of our professional educators and our parents in motivating students to finish high school and pursue all of the opportunities available to them in the classroom and beyond," said Education Secretary Matthew Malone. "I am proud of the progress we've made, but even one student dropping out of school is too many, so for those students, we will continue working." In November 2010, the Commonwealth was awarded a five-year, $15 million federal grant through the federal High School Graduation Initiative to support statewide and local efforts for high school dropout prevention, intervention, and recovery. The Massachusetts initiative, called MassGrad, has supported districts and schools with the highest dropout rates through a multifaceted approach that includes a Dropout Prevention & Recovery Work Group open to all districts, as well as start-up funding to support a range of innovative programming to best meet the needs of students most likely to drop out, or to re-engage students that previously left school. That innovative programming has included graduation coaches, work and service-based learning opportunities, community coalitions, and high school pathways such as the Gateway to College early college model. Other findings from the Cohort Graduation Rate include:
  • Statewide, more than 80 percent of students graduated in four years in 238 out of 290 school districts (82.1%, up from 79.9% in 2011, 79.2% in 2010, and 75.7% in 2009) and 262 out of 371 schools (70.6%, up from 69.5% in 2011, 68.8% in 2010, and 65% in 2009).
  • The five-year graduation rate for the 2011 cohort was 86.3 percent, an increase of 1.6 percentage points from the five-year cohort graduation rate of 84.7 percent for the 2010 cohort and the highest rate since ESE began to calculate the rates in 2007. The 2011 five-year graduation rate of 86.3 percent was also an increase of 2.9 percentage points from the four-year rate for the 2011 cohort.
  • Students who attended a single school throughout high school continue to graduate at much higher rates than more transient students. On average, 87.7 percent of students from the 2012 cohort who attending a single high school graduated in four years, higher than the comparable rates for students who attended two schools (72 percent), three schools (49.6 percent), and four or more schools (32.2 percent).
  • Among non-graduates in the 2012 cohort, 5.8 percent are still in school, 0.9 percent were non-graduating completers, 1.6 percent earned a GED, 6.9 percent dropped out, and 0.1 percent were expelled.
Other findings in the Annual Dropout report include:
  • Statewide, 25.3 percent of all dropouts were 9th graders, 25.8 percent were 10th graders, 23.6 percent were 11th graders, and 25.3 percent were 12th graders.
  • 2 percent of female students and 2.9 percent of male students dropped out of high school during the 2011-12 school year.
  • 42.6 percent of all dropouts statewide were white, 35.3 percent were Hispanic, 16.1 percent were African American, 3.3 percent were Asian, 22.8 percent were students with disabilities, 12.6 percent were limited English proficient, and 59.6 percent were low income.
  • 71 percent of 12th graders who dropped out and 48.8 percent of 11th graders who dropped out during the 2011-12 school year had already earned their Competency Determination (had already met the state MCAS graduation requirement).
Over the past five years, the urban school districts that have made the largest gains in reducing the number of dropouts (2007-08 and 2011-12) included:
  • Boston had 250 fewer students drop out in 2011-12 than in 2007-08 (0.6 percentage point improvement, from 7.6% to 7.0%);
  • Lawrence had 224 fewer students drop out in 2011-12 than in 2007-08 (7.0 percentage point improvement, from 12.9% to 5.9%);
  • Fall River had 220 fewer students drop out in 2011-12 than in 2007-08 (7.8 percentage point improvement, from 12.5% to 4.7%);
  • New Bedford had 88 fewer students drop out in 2011-12 than in 2007-08 (1.4 percentage point improvement, from 8.2% to 6.8%);
  • Lynn had 84 fewer students drop out in 2011-12 than in 2007-08 (1.7 percentage point improvement, from 5.8% to 4.1%).
Through its Race to the Top initiative, the Commonwealth is also developing an integrated suite of cutting-edge tools and resources to promote best practices in classroom instruction and assessment. ESE will soon launch Edwin, a new, comprehensive teaching and learning platform that will provide every public school educator in Massachusetts with a single entry point to access resources in teaching, learning, and analytics. Edwin will provide on-demand access to instructional resources, curriculum planning tools, model curriculum units, and a variety of assessments including curriculum embedded performance assessments. Edwin Analytics will provide authorized school districts with access to new information, reports, and perspectives on education and programs that specifically support improvements in teaching and learning. Edwin Analytics will integrate longitudinal data from pre-kindergarten through public post-secondary education to help inform decision making about how and where educators can improve their teaching practices to provide an exceptional learning experience to students. New analytical reports will include data for the Massachusetts Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS), which provides a systematic, longitudinally-validated way of looking at individual students and their likelihood of meeting upcoming academic goals (e.g., passing all grade 9 courses, graduating from high school). With these reports available at no cost to all districts, educators will be able to better identify at-risk students in a timely, systematic way to provide appropriate interventions and supports. For more information on the graduation rate, look online at and For additional information on the annual dropout rate, including school and districts numbers, look online at

Last Updated: January 24, 2013

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