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High School Dropout Rate Rises

Study Finds Students in Cities Less Likely to Finish Education


BOSTON--Although fewer students overall dropped out of Massachusetts high schools last year, the rate of those who quit before graduating continued to rise in the state's cities, according to a state study.

There were 2128 more students in the state's high schools in 1989 than in 1988, decreasing the dropout rate from 5.4 percent to 4.9 percent.

The report issued by the state Department of Education and published yesterday said urban high schools enroll 41 percent of the students in grades 9 through 12 statewide, but account for 68 percent of the dropouts.

If the current dropout rate holds, 18 percent of the students who entered ninth grade in 1988 may not graduate in 1992, the report said.

On the average nationwide, the report said, 4.5 percent of 15-to-24-year-olds in grades 10 to 12--a total of 429,000 students--did not finish school between 1987 and 1989.

The report, to be officially released today, concludes that:

. Dropout prevention funds helped 33 of 51 schools that received state grants cut their dropout rate.

. The annual dropout rates showed the greatest decreases in urban areas and among Black, white and male students.

. Results indicate that dropout rates are related to socioeconomic conditions, not race and ethnicity.

According to the Boston Sunday Globe, sources familiar with the study say the slight upward trend in attendance over the past three years could be reversed because of cuts in budgets that had supported dropout prevention programs.

"Significantly reducing the number of dropouts is not easy. It requires fundamental changes in school policies, procedures and practices, increased community involvement and ongoing staff development," the report said.

From a peak of $11.3 million in 1988, the state department now has only $2.3 million for anti-dropout programs.

Essential-skills grants, which included money to fight the dropout problem, were cut to $2.3 million this year from $10 million in 1988. The report saidthe cuts reduce the state's opportunities toencourage, stimulate and focus programs for thosestudents at the highest risk of dropping out.

The state study found that the highest dropoutrates occur in the second and third years of highschool, and more males drop out than females.

Of the racial and ethnic groups in the study,Hispanic students ranked the highest in dropoutsat 14.1 percent a year, followed by Blacks at 9.2percent; Native Americans, 7.8 percent; Asians,4.7 percent, and whites, 4 percent.

Projected over four years, those figures meanthat 45 percent of Hispanic youngsters and 32percent of Blacks in the state may not graduatefrom high school, the study concluded.

In the state's cities, the four-year rate isprojected at an average of 28 percent.

The study also found that students frommiddle-class and affluent families tended to stayin school more often than students from poorerfamilies.

Statewide, 1170 students dropped out ofvocational technical high schools, for a dropoutrate of 5.5 percent, while special-needs studentsleft school at a rate of 7.4 percent

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