LAWRENCE — Just over 11 percent of the high school's class of 2017 dropped out between their freshman and senior years, an increase of 0.4 percent that made last year the first in a decade that the dropout rate increased, state education officials reported Monday.
The change suggests city schools are holding onto the gains they've made retaining students over the decade. It also suggests that the dramatic declines in dropout rates at the high school over the last decade are over and that the number has gotten low enough that further declines will be harder to achieve.
The four-year dropout rate reached nearly 37 percent in 2008, then declined every year through 2016, when 10.7 percent of Lawrence High School's students quit between their freshman and senior years. Last year, the rate nudged up for the first time in a decade, to 11.1 percent, the state reported.
The increase comes as Jeff Riley, the receiver who has run the city's public schools since the state took them over in 2012 – when the four-year dropout rate was 20.6 percent – prepares to give up the post to become the secretary of the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Leldamy Correa, whom Riley hired to reduce the number of dropouts – including by tracking them down in their homes and jobs and bringing them back – said the four-year dropout rate is an imprecise measure of a school system's success, in part because it includes students who left for other schools outside Massachusetts without letting their former schools know they're still enrolled.
Instead, Correa said a better measure is the one-year dropout rate, which tallies dropouts in any single year, when schools are better able to track them.
In Lawrence, the one-year rate declined to 3.7 percent last year, from 4.2 percent in 2016, the state reported.