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Dropout Prevention and Reengagement (DPR)

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)

Dropout Prevention and Reengagement Network

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

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.

Research Based Strategies

  • Adult advocates: caring adults who form a web of support for struggling students and support, engage, listen to, advise and motivate students as they overcome barriers and successfully complete K–12 education
  • Contextual Learning: opportunities for students to make connections between knowledge and its applications to their lives as family members, citizens, and workers. Contextual learning includes but not limited to service-learning, work-based learning, project-based learning and capstone projects.
  • Expansion of the school year/structured learning time and summer transition programs: Many students who are in danger of or who have dropped out are often overage and have severe academic deficits, such as being under-credited toward high school graduation or lacking literacy, numeracy, and other academic skills. Often more time is needed to complete high school. These expanded learning time opportunities may also provide enrichment and socio-emotional supports to increase school engagement and prepare students for academic success
  • Programs and systems specifically designed to serve transient students including migrant, English Learners, Immigrants, Refugees and Newcomers: These programs are intended to accelerate English language acquisition, develop academic content vocabulary and higher-level thinking skills, promote the development of social and academic skills that students will need when entering district high schools, build a foundation for long-term academic and socio-cultural success
  • School Culture and Behavioral Health: Behavioral health refers to the social, emotional, and behavioral well-being of all students, including students with mental health needs. Students' behavioral health is intricately connected to academic, social, and emotional success at school.
  • Pathway Development: Pathways for college, career and civic readiness are intentional educational structures within a school system that enable students to build agency, identify personal interests, strengths and talents, identify career interests aligned with those strengths and talents and understand the connection of academic learning and future success
  • My Career and Academic Plan (MyCAP): A scope and sequence of lessons and activities implemented in grades 6–12 to support the development of individual skills, interests and talents that will drive the identification of careers of interest and align with course selections along with postsecondary choices.

Legislation and Regulations

For more information on DPR:
Lisa Harney or Nyal Fuentes

Last Updated: August 24, 2022

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


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