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1990 HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT RATES SHOW MODERATE DECLINE

 1990 HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT RATES SHOW MODERATE DECLINE
 BOSTON, Jan., 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Slightly fewer Massachusetts


high school students dropped out of school in 1990 than in 1989 but serious dropout problems continue to exist in some districts and among certain student populations, according to a report released today by the State Department of Education.
 A total of 10,802 public school students, aged 16 or older (4.6 percent of the statewide high school population) dropped out of school in 1990, compared to 111,855 (4.9 percent) in 1989. Annual dropout rates declined slightly for nearly all ethnic groups and kinds of communities.
 Based on the 1990 annual dropout rate, the Department of Education projects that 17 percent of the students who entered ninth grade in the fall of 1989 will not graduate with the class of 1993. The projected four-year dropout rate has decreased from 20 percent for the class of 1991.
 The state report notes that the decrease in dropout rates in 1989 and 1990 coincides with the period when state funding for dropout prevention initiatives in local districts was at its peak. Chapter 188 funding for dropout prevention programs was reduced from $2.6 million in FY 1987 to $2.25 million FY 1989 and $.91 million FY 1990. In the current(FY 1992) budget, $500,000 is appropriated for dropout prevention.
 "Many remedial programs were serving at-risk students between 1987 and 1989, particularly at the middle school level," said Acting State Education Commissioner Rhoda Schneider. "It's likely that declines in dropout rates for 1989 and 1990 reflect those efforts. We won't be able to assess the loss of those programs until the 1991 and 1992 dropout rates are reported."
 Schneider is concerned that funding cuts and increased class sizes over the past two years, as well as the elimination this year of the state mandate to transport high school students, may increase dropout rates for 1991 or 1992. "When students lose teachers, programs and services, they lose some of the incentives that keep them coming to school."
 Despite slight improvements in their 1990 annual dropout rates, Hispanic and Black students, at 12.6 percent and 9.0 percent respectively, continue to drop out of school at higher rats than all other student populations. The drop out rate for white students is 3.6 percent, much closer to the statewide average.
 Urban students also drop out at alarmingly high rates in comparison to students in most other kinds of communities. Urban dropout rates, which fell from 8.0 percent in 1989 to 7.7 percent in 1990, are still seven times higher than those in residential suburbs.
 The state dropout report suggests that the practice of grade retention is one factor that may increase the likelihood of a student dropping out of school before graduation.
 "The fact that some 2,500 ninth grade students dropped out in 1990 is very troubling," said Schneider, "Students are generally 14 or 15 years old in the ninth grade, but the ninth graders who are dropping out of school are at least 16. This means that they were probably retained in grade at least once. Rather than helping low achieving students to catch up, this practice may contribute to their decision to give up."
 The report also stresses the need for schools to provide increased services to linguistic minority students, who are most at risk of dropping out of school, and to integrate students with special needs into regular education classes from which they are less likely to drop out.
 -0- 1/27/92
 /CONTACT: Marie Fricker of the Massachusetts Department of Education, 617-770-7312/ CO: The Department of Education ST: Massachusetts IN: SU:


TM -- NE015 -- 3747 01/27/92 12:28 EST
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Date:Jan 27, 1992
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