For Immediate Release
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Contact:JC Considine 781-338-3112

For 4th Consecutive Year, State's 4-Year Graduation Rate Rises

Statewide annual dropout rate remains at 2.9 percent

MALDEN - The Patrick-Murray Administration and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced that for the fourth year in a row, the state's four-year graduation rate increased in 2010, with more than 82 percent of seniors graduating within four years. According to a statewide report released today by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 82.1 percent of the 76,308 students in the 2010 cohort graduated within four years, an increase of 0.6 percentage points from 2009, 0.9 percentage points from 2008, 1.2 percentage points from 2007, and 2.2 percentage points from 2006. 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. "We continue to make important strides in reaching our goal to ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for success in higher education, the workforce, and life," said Governor Deval Patrick. "Today's news is another signal of the perseverance and commitment to success that embodies the Commonwealth's public schools." "Four consecutive years of increasing our graduation rates is a great accomplishment for our students and their teachers," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. "Ensuring a high graduation rate will pay big dividends for our students, and is vital for our future workforce and economic infrastructure." State officials also announced today that the annual dropout rate for 2009-10 was unchanged from the previous year, marking the second year in a row that the percent of high school students dropping out of school was less than 3 percent. This is the lowest dropout rate in the last two decades. Last year, 8,296 students (2.9 percent) out of 290,502 high school students in grades 9-12 dropped out of school during the 2009-10 school year. "In today's world a high school diploma is a minimum qualification," said Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "Reducing the dropout rate is complex and challenging work. Our award of a $15 million grant and the expansion of the early warning indicator index to all school districts will assist local school leaders in identifying and supporting students that may be at risk of not graduating on time from high school." The Department has piloted an early warning indicator index for 9th grade students to indicate the risk level that individual students will not graduate on time. The index uses 8th grade data to identify students that may be in need of interventions. The Department is currently enhancing the early indicator system to provide districts with student-level data prior to high school. The new system is expected to be available for all districts in 2012. Massachusetts was also one of only two states selected for the U.S. Department of Education's High School Graduation Initiative project in October 2010. Over the next five years, Massachusetts will receive $15 million to support statewide and local efforts for high school dropout prevention, intervention, and recovery. "I am pleased to see the continued increase of more students succeeding in high school," said Education Secretary Paul Reville. "Our focus remains on helping all students reach higher and graduate with the knowledge and skills they need to continue growing and learning." While the statewide four-year graduation rate improved, the results varied for different student groups. In 2010, the four-year graduation rates increased for Hispanic students by 1.4 percentage points since last year (from 59.7 percent for the 2009 cohort to 61.1 percent for the 2010 cohort) and low income students by 1 percentage point (from 66.9 percent to 67.9 percent), but decreased for African American students by 0.6 percentage points (from 69.1 percent to 68.5 percent) and for students with disabilities by 0.9 percentage points (from 64.9 to 64.0). Statewide, more than 80 percent of students graduated in four years in 225 out of 284 school districts (79.2 percent; up from 75.7 percent in 2009) and 249 of 362 schools (68.8 percent; up from 65 percent in 2009). Other findings in the Graduation Rate report include:
  • The five-year graduation rate for the 2009 cohort decreased by 0.2 percentage points to 84.0 percent compared to last year. The slight decrease, the first of its kinds in the five-year rate since it was first calculated, is attributable in part to a change in the Competency Determination standard which required students to score Proficient or above in English language arts and Mathematics and Needs Improvement or above in Science and Technology/Engineering.
  • Students who attended one school throughout high school graduated at much higher rates than more transient students. On average, 85.8 percent of students who attended one high school graduated in four years, compared to 66.4 percent of students who attended two schools, 39.7 percent who attended three schools, and 28.5 percent who attended four or more schools.
  • Among non-graduates in 2010, 6.6 percent stayed in school, 0.9 percent were non-graduating completers, 2.0 percent earned a GED, 8.2 percent dropped out, and 0.1 percent were expelled.
  • 55.9 percent of students in the 2010 cohort who are still in school have earned their Competency Determination (CD).
Other findings in the Annual Dropout report include:
  • Across the state, 26.6 percent of all dropouts were 9th graders, 26.1 percent were 10th graders, 22.2 percent were 11th graders, and 25 percent were 12th graders.
  • 2.4 percent of female students and 3.3 percent of male students dropped out of high school during the 2009-10 school year.
  • 43.8 percent of all dropouts statewide were white, 35.3 percent were Hispanic, 15.7 percent were African American, 2.8 percent were Asian, 25.6 percent were students with disabilities, 11.3 percent were limited English proficient, and 50.2 percent were low income.
  • 55.9 percent of 12th graders who dropped out and 42.2 percent of 11th graders who dropped out during the 2009-10 school year had already earned their Competency Determination.
Several urban school districts made impressive gains by reducing the number of dropouts between 2008-09 and 2009-10, including:
  • Boston had 112 fewer students drop out in 2009-10 than in 2008-09 (0.5 percentage point improvement, from 7.3 percent to 6.8 percent);
  • Worcester had 93 fewer students drop out in 2009-10 than in 2008-09 (1.3 percentage point improvement, from 5.1 to 3.8 percent);
  • Chelsea had 41 fewer students drop out in 2009-10 than in 2008-09 (2.6 percentage point improvement, from 9.4 percent to 6.8 percent);
  • Fall River had 31 fewer students drop out in 2009-10 than in 2008-09 (1.3 percentage point improvement, from 6.2 to 4.9 percent);
  • Lawrence had 28 fewer students drop out in 2009-10 than in 2008-09 (0.8 percentage point improvement, from 10.2 to 9.4 percent).
The Department, Commonwealth Corporation, and the Executive Office of Education will soon launch a new collaborative project called the "Dropout Reduction and Multiple Pathways Development Virtual Tool Shed" to recognize local promising practices and increase their replication. The Tool Shed will include easy-to-access tools and strategies that community coalitions, planning groups, and staff can put to immediate use to increase high school graduation rates. For more information on the graduation rate, look online at and For additional information on the annual dropout rate, including school and district numbers, look online at

Last Updated: February 10, 2011

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