The Department recognizes that dropout prevention and reengagement is not about one single program or initiative. Effective dropout prevention and reengagement efforts must be a systemic ongoing process within the school. DPR efforts are designed to support students at-risk of not graduating or reengage students who have left school with opportunities to gain the academic, personal/social and work readiness skills necessary to graduate and lead productive lives. Significantly reducing the number of students who drop out of school takes a combination of efforts at the community, district, school, classroom, and individual student levels.
In fall 2010, the U.S. Department of Education selected Massachusetts as just one of two states for the federal High School Graduation Initiative award and one of 29 projects total nationwide chosen for funding out of 184 total applicants. The Massachusetts grant project — MassGrad — focused on the 133 high schools throughout the Commonwealth that exceeded the statewide annual dropout rate of 2.9 percent in the 2008-09 school year. The MassGrad Resources pages contain materials from past trainings and events, a variety of evaluation reports from the MassGrad external evaluator (UMass Donahue Institute), and tools and resources created by Massachusetts school districts and the ESE. Districts and schools in the initiative helped drive graduation rates to the highest rates and dropout rates to the lowest rates. since they were measured.
DESE continues to support the MassGrad dropout prevention and reengagement efforts through Continued grant funding to identified districts/schools with the highest dropout rates and numbers. The focus of the work should be on student-centered activities, that contribute to immediate action for decreasing the number of students dropping out (see the menu of research-based strategies below)
Open to any district/school in the Commonwealth, the Dropout Prevention and Reengagement (DPR) Network Meetings provide a venue for hearing from experts from both within and outside of the state on leading topics related to dropout prevention and reengagement, structured opportunities guided by a case consultancy protocol for school teams to learn from one another, and opportunities to meet with DESE staff for additional support.
Alternative Education is an instructional approach under the control of a school committee that is offered to "at-risk" students in a nontraditional setting. "At-risk" students may include those who are pregnant/parenting teens, truant students, and suspended or expelled students, returned dropouts, delinquent youth, or other students who are not meeting local promotional requirements.
The alternative setting is designed to provide an educational environment where teaching and learning is student-centered, and where multi-tiered behavioral supports, social and emotional supports, individualized instruction and remediation, flexibility in schedules and individualized postsecondary planning through My Career and Academic Plan (MyCAP) are available to help students meet state and local graduation requirements. Alternative programs, whether in the school building or in another location, must offer students an education that meets the same academic rigor, standards, and expectations of all students in the district while attending to both the academic and nonacademic needs of every student.
A guide to frequently asked questions about alternative education
Legislation and Regulations
For more information on DPR:
Lisa Harney or Nyal Fuentes
Last Updated: August 24, 2022
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906
Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370
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