Island dropout rate reflects downward trend statewide
The high school dropout rate in Massachusetts during the 2008-09 school year dropped below three percent for the first time in a decade, according to a new state report released last week.
In keeping with the state trend, the 2008-09 dropout rate for Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) decreased to 0.8 percent from 1.7 percent for 2007-08. Of 707 students enrolled in 2008-09, 6 dropped out, compared to 13 out of 750 students enrolled in 2007-08.
When asked what factors he attributed to the decrease, superintendent of schools James Weiss noted that MVRHS has a whole range of programs aimed at keeping students in school.
"Our dropout rate has always been very, very low, and our graduation rate very, very high, and that's attributable to the STAR program, the Rebecca Amos Institute, the fact that we have a really good counseling staff that works with kids, and all of those kinds of things," Mr. Weiss said in a phone call Friday.
The STAR (Students and Teachers Achieving Results) program provides extra academic help for a group of 9th and 10th graders within the high school. The Rebecca Amos Institute, housed in a separate building on the high school campus, offers an alternative program for 11th and 12th graders.
"We're in a very unique and favorable position," Mr. Weiss said. "There are a lot of schools that would die for these kinds of programs, and we have them. It's a real blessing for our kids."
After several years with a zero percent dropout rate, the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School's 2008-09 rate increased to 2.6 percent, according to the state report. In terms of actual numbers, however, the increase represented only one dropout out of 38 students enrolled in grades 9-12.
Director Bob Moore, however, said in an email to The Times this week that the Charter School had no dropouts last year.
To set the record straight, he explained, "The dropout rate you make reference to refers to a reporting error which we are working with the DESE [Department of Elementary and Secondary Education] to correct."
The annual dropout rate is calculated by dividing the number of students who drop out over a one-year period by the October 1 enrollment census for grades 9-12, multiplied by 100, according to a DESE press release.
The DESE defines dropouts as students who leave school between July 1 and June 30 of a given year and do not return, graduate or receive a general equivalency diploma by the following October 1.
"Today's students face a bleak future if they do not have a high school diploma," education secretary Paul Reville said in a DESE press release about the dropout report. "The responsibility is ours to help students make connections between what they learn in school and what their prospects are after school. Reducing the dropout rate is a key factor in that work."
To that end, a state graduation and dropout prevention and recovery commission was authorized by legislation in 2008. The commission released a report in October 2009 with many recommendations for reducing the statewide dropout rate, including further development of an early warning system for students at risk of dropping out.
The DESE currently is piloting the early warning system in 24 urban school districts, with plans to expand it to all school districts in the coming years.
The full dropout rate report is available online at www.doe.mass.edu.