EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 24, 2013

Lawrence graduation rate improves

LAWRENCE - The state's four-year graduation rate improved for the sixth consecutive year, and gains made by African American, Hispanic, and high needs students since last year outpaced other student groups, it was announced today.

Over the past five years, urban school districts, including Lawrence, made the largest gains in reducing the number of dropouts.

Boston had 250 fewer students drop out in 2011-12 than in 2007-08 (0.6 percentage point improvement, from 7.6 percent to 7 percent.

Lawrence had 224 fewer students drop out in 2011-12 than in 2007-08 (7.0 percentage point improvement, from 12.9 percent to 5.9 percent.

The cities of New Bedford, Lynn and Fall River rounded out the top five in improvements.

The state's annual dropout rate declined to 2.5 percent in 2011-12, the fourth consecutive year below 3 percent and lowest overall rate in decades.

"I am proud to see more students graduating on time, because now more than ever, having a high school diploma is essential to success in our 21st Century global economy," said Governor Deval Patrick. "But until we close the achievement gap, our work is not done, and additional investments in education are critical to ensuring all students have the opportunity to succeed.”

The Patrick administration has been working on a number of fronts to reduce the number of students dropping out of high school each year. Those investments, including funding for extended learning time in middle school grades and targeted supports for students in Gateway Cities, total approximately $550 million in the first year and increase to nearly $1 billion annually over the next four years.

Last year's improvement in the state's annual dropout rate meant that 843 fewer students dropped out in 2011-12 than during the previous year, and 4,385 fewer students dropped out than in 2006-07, when the annual dropout rate was at a high mark of 3.8 percent.

"This is tremendous news and a clear signal that we are making strides to keep more students engaged and on a path to earning a diploma that is essential to their future success," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "Our schools deserve all the credit for identifying students at-risk of dropping out earlier in their schooling and providing key interventions to support their learning and motivate them to stay in school and graduate."

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