Mass. High School Graduation Rate Rises; Dropout Rate Falls

Mass. High School Graduation Rate Rises; Dropout Rate Falls

Massachusetts' four-year graduation rates climbed for the ninth year in a row. (Jessie Jacobson/Flickr)

Massachusetts’ four-year graduation rates climbed for the ninth year in a row. (Jessie Jacobson/Flickr)

BOSTON — Massachusetts’ four-year high school graduation rates climbed for the ninth year in a row, with some of the largest gains in such groups as black females, Hispanic students and students from low-income families, the state education department announced Thursday.

“These impressive results reflect the dedication of the Commonwealth’s educators, counselors and administrators to keeping all students engaged in school,” Mitchell Chester, elementary and secondary education commissioner, said in a statement.

The four-year graduation rate for black females jumped from 79.2 percent in 2014 to 82.3 percent in 2015.

Across the state, 87.3 percent of students who entered ninth grade in the 2011-12 school year graduated four years later, in 2015. That’s a 1.2 percent increase from last year‘s rate.

While the state’s overall graduation numbers look good, large gaps persist. The graduation rate of male English-language learners dropped moderately from last year, to 60.5 percent. In general, Hispanic English-language learners had a graduation rate of 55 percent, the lowest of any group in the state.

Massachusetts’ urban centers largely fell behind the rest of the state with a 76.1 percent four-year graduation rate — but that was up from last year and marked the first time they’d crossed the 75 percent line.

Boston’s graduation rate reached an all-time high of 70.7 percent. While achievement gaps remain, the gap between white and black students in Boston Public Schools has shrunk by nearly two-thirds in the past decade, state figures indicate.

Superintendent Tommy Chang said there’s still more work to do.

“Our recent creation of a high school office within BPS seeks to not only leverage our high school redesign work but also redouble our efforts to completely close our opportunity and achievement gaps,” Chang said in a statement. “We must continue to improve the rigor of our classroom instruction so that all of our students have access to high-quality education.”

Fall River’s and Lawrence’s graduation rates also exceeded 70 percent for the first time. In Chicopee, Revere, Somerville and Worcester, the graduation rates crossed 80 percent for the first time.

New Bedford had a 57.9 percent four-year graduation rate in 2014-15, the lowest of any public school district. Eight charter or virtual schools had lower graduation rates.

Meanwhile, the state’s four-year dropout rate declined to 1.9 percent, the lowest overall rate in more than 30 years.

As a group, Massachusetts charter schools’ dropout rate remains higher than average and the same as last year, at 3.5 percent.

In a phone call with reporters, education commissioner Chester said that could be because some charter schools specifically target at-risk students.

“We will certainly be talking with our charter school leaders to better understand the reasons and the challenges in our charter schools for those rates, as we get our arms around this,” said Chester.


  • J__o__h__n

    If the graduation rate goes up, wouldn’t the dropout rate have to decline?

    • Louise Kennedy

      I think so, yes, but the reverse isn’t necessarily true: Students might not drop out but might take more than four years to graduate.

  • Lawrence

    Wonderful news on the surface. The only problem is that standards have been so lowered so that any dummy can graduate even if they fail to show up. All in the name of providing “advancement” to all.