EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 25, 2013

Graduation rate on the rise in Lawrence

Fewer dropouts signals hope for turnaround

LAWRENCE — The percentage of students graduating in four years surged to 64 percent in Lawrence Public Schools last year, a jump of nearly 8 percent over the previous year that continues a stark turnaround for the city’s schools, according to education data released yesterday.

In 2011, 54.2 percent of students graduated from Lawrence in four years, up from 37.9 percent in 2008.

Haverhill Public School registered a 1 percentage point increase, to 74.8 percent, while Andover fell 1 percentage point to 95.4 percent and North Andover fell almost 2 points to 94.6 percent. Methuen held steady at 82 percent.

Overall, the state graduation rate rose to 84.7 percent, the sixth year of increases in a row, including gains for Hispanic students and students whose first language is not English.

“The jump seen with this most recent graduating class shows the combined, cumulative effects of some steps taken previously, the opening of the new high school campus in 2007-’08, for instance, or implementing in 2008-’09 an early warning program to identify at-risk kids, along with our newest efforts, like finding and bringing back 10 kids this summer who’d dropped out just short of graduation, and helping them get the credits needed to finish by August,” said Jeffrey Riley, the superintendent/receiver appointed by the state a little over a year ago.

Lawrence’s total graduation rate is six to eight percentage points higher than the four-year numbers, as some students take longer to graduate.

According to state data, 58.1 percent of students graduated in five years in 2011, as opposed to 52.3 percent who graduated in four years. In 2010, 53.7 percent graduated in five years, while 46.7 percent graduated in four.

The city’s annual dropout rate, or the percentage of students who drop out in a given year, fell to 5.9 percent, a 3-percent drop from last year and a full 7-percent decrease from 2008.

“The stable leadership we have in the city now is going to contribute to that graduation rate going up even more,” said Frank McLaughlin, president of the Lawrence Teachers Union.

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