School dropout dips, graduation rate climbs
BOSTON — The annual school dropout rate in Massachusetts hit its lowest level in more than three decades in the 2014-2015 school year, while four-year graduation rates climbed for the ninth consecutive year, state officials announced Thursday.
A total of 87.3 percent of students who entered as ninth graders in 2011, or who transferred into that cohort, graduated within four years. The number represents an increase of 1.2 percentage points from the previous year and 7.4 percentage points from 2006, when the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education first began calculating cohort graduation rates.
The graduation rate for Hispanic students hit 72.2 percent, the first time it has exceeded 70 percent, the department said. Hispanic male students and black female students made some of the largest gains, with the rate for black female students rising to 82.3 percent.
Four hundred fewer students dropped out in the 2014-2015 school year than in the year before, bringing the dropout rate to 1.9 percent. A total of 5,346 students dropped out last school year, fewer than half of the 11,436 who did so in the 2006-2007 school year.
Boston, Springfield, Lawrence, New Bedford and Worcester were among the urban school districts that made the largest gains in reducing the number of dropouts in the past five years. New Bedford had 146 fewer students drop out, a 61.6 percent change.
"These impressive results reflect the dedication of the Commonwealth's educators, counselors and administrators to keeping all students engaged in school," Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester said in a statement. "A high school diploma is a necessary, although increasingly insufficient, credential that our students need as they move on to life after high school. Our work now is to ensure that the high school diploma represents readiness for college, a career and participation in civic life."
Graduation rates also improved for low-income and economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities and English language learners.
Disparities exist between male and female students and across races. Ninety percent of female students graduated in four years, compared to 84.7 percent for male students. The graduation rate was 92.4 percent for Asian students, 91.6 percent for white students and 77.5 percent for black students, all above the 72.2 percent rate for Hispanic students.
A report released Thursday by the Rennie Center for Education Research on the condition of education in Massachusetts labeled "social-emotional competencies" like self-awareness and interpersonal communication a key factor in academic success, and suggested that a focus on social-emotional learning could help keep students engaged in their schooling and on track to graduate.
"Student engagement is one of the most important predictors of academic success and is deeply connected to social-emotional development," the report says. "Tracking indicators of student engagement — including risk factors like school mobility and absenteeism — can help schools and districts apply interventions more strategically, keeping more students on track for graduation and long-term success."
In 2015, 9 percent of students transferred during the school year, and 13 percent of students were absent for 10 percent or more of the days they were enrolled, the report found.
Among other suggestions, the report recommends that the state provide resources and guidance to schools so that they can ensure "more proactive and comprehensive social-emotional support for students."
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