EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 25, 2013

Graduation rate on the rise in Lawrence

Fewer dropouts signals hope for turnaround

(Continued)

Shalimar Quiles, a Lawrence High graduate who now works as the district’s manager for scholarly engagement, said the district hopes to build on the current momentum with the launch last year of the Phoenix Academy, where students who have dropped out and are reluctant to return to Lawrence High can complete their courses.

The academy also serves students currently enrolled in the high school who are having trouble.

“We believe the establishment of the Phoenix Academy, which allowed us to bring more than 70 kids back to a school that addresses their specific needs, as well as our other re-engagement efforts have had, and will continue to have, positive results in this area,” Riley said.

The state’s turnaround plan for Lawrence, which included charter schools working with failing schools, better communication, and a longer school day, was just put into place in September and did not have an impact on 2012 numbers.

“Anytime you make a change in the education system, it takes two to three years to see the needle moving,” said Pavel Payano, vice chairman of the Lawrence School Committee. “What this shows is the work of the teachers and administrators that has been done in last year or two. It’ll be a bit until we see that (turn around plan) impact.”

Mitchell Chester, commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the state in recent years has focused on identifying students at higher risk for dropping out earlier in their careers, even into elementary school, so teachers and administrators can work on keeping them in school.

“We’re identifying students in elementary grades and bringing students to the attention of the district so they can be proactive,” Chester said. “What happens in high school is very dependent on the education a student gets up to grade eight.”

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