The Boston Public Schools (BPS) cut the annual high school drop-out rate by one-third this year alone and the figure has fallen to 4.5 percent, down from 6.4 percent last year and 9.4 percent in 2006. This is the lowest drop-out rate since at least the 1977-78 school year, when BPS began tracking the figure. The sharp decrease is seen across students across all demographic groups.
This means more high school students are staying in school and are continuing on a pathway to graduation. Also today, state data indicates the BPS four-year graduation rate is holding steady at 65.9 percent, which ties the record level the District set last year.
“Graduating from high school is fundamental to closing the achievement gap and starting to bridge the economic divide,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “It is encouraging that BPS continues to reduce the dropout rate and keep students in schools. While I applaud BPS’s progress, we cannot rest until all students, across all neighborhoods, are graduating BPS prepared for college and career success. This is one step forward and the work continues, and I could not be more proud today of these students and teachers, who are working hard and to ensure a solid education for everyone.”
“Working with a number of key partners, we have taken a series of dramatic steps over the past several years to change the district’s thought process on drop-outs, working to both re-engage with those who did drop out and pro-actively seeking to prevent others from being in a position where dropping out is their course of action,” said Boston School Committee Chair Michael O’Neill. “Building on what we have learned in the process and expanding the successful practices are the key challenges in front of us to keep the positive trends going.”
BPS Interim Superintendent John McDonough credits the changes to a series of initiatives that focus on keeping at-risk 9th grade students in school, including deepening ties between schools and the BPS Re-Engagement Center; expansion of the BPS Credit Recovery program; a broader emphasis on the Success Boston initiative, which helps students determine whether they are on-track for graduation and college admission; and an expansion of BPS summer learning programming.
“Our high school headmasters, teacher teams and guidance counselors worked aggressively to help build students’ skills and confidence levels with summer learning programs and extra after-school support,” McDonough said. “Ultimately, the dropout rate is a reflection of how our students feel about their own potential. When we see a trend like this it is clear to me that more of these at-risk students believe in themselves and know that they can succeed.”
This year, BPS is expanding these efforts to at-risk students in the 8th grade. These students are receiving out-of-school support using digital classroom tools and mentoring to help their transition to high school.
Among the most impressive gains occurred at the Burke High School in Dorchester, which is a Level 4 Turnaround School. Data released Jan. 27 show the dropout rate at the Burke plunged from 13.0 percent in 2011-12 to 5.5 percent last year. The four-year graduation rate at the Burke jumped by 10 points over the same period.
“While we have made gains, our sense of urgency is still alive and well and will inspire us to future growth and the spirit in which we work,” said Lindsa McIntyre, Headmaster of the Burke High School. “One of the greatest opportunities afforded the students at the Burke is a sense of community and a spirit of belonging. We recognize our school not only as an academic institution but a ‘school home.’ At the Burke our philosophy includes servicing the whole child and our motto is ‘miss school – miss out.’”
For more detailed and school-level information, visit www.bostonpublicschools.org/reports.