By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – School Superintendent Daniel Warwick announced that, according to statistics released by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the overall dropout rate in the city fell from 10 percent in 2012 to 6.5 percent in 2013.
Warwick attributed the sharp decline to the different programs that have been implemented in the district, including 11 alternative programs, to assist students to stay in school.
“We’ve take a lot of really proactive steps,” he said. Among those are looking at students as young as second graders to identify problems; free night and summer school; the establishment of academy programs in ninth grade to assist in the transition into high school; high school graduation coaches; and an expansion of the Gateway to College program at Springfield Technical Community College
According to the information provided by DESE, Springfield was one of the five urban school districts with the biggest gains in reducing the dropout rate. The others were Boston, Lawrence, Worcester and Fall River.
The dropout rate for Central High School went from 7.7 percent to 3 percent. At the High School of Commerce it remained at 13.6 percent. The rate at the High School of Science and Technology (Sci-Tech) went from 11.6 percent to 6.8 percent. At Putnam Vocational Technical Academy the rate plummeted from 5.1 percent to 0.7 percent. The Springfield Renaissance School saw a decline from 2.4 percent to 1.6 percent and the Alternative High School also experienced a drop of 30.2 percent to 27.4 percent.
The greatest risk of students dropping out is in ninth grade with a current rate of 8.3 percent.
The five-year graduation rate for the class of 2012 statewide was 87.5. Springfield’s overall rate was 59.8 percent. The rates for the individual high schools were 76.6 percent for Central; 38.5 percent for Commerce; 45.2 for the Sci-Tech; 73.5 percent for Putnam; 80 percent for Renaissance and 58.9 for the alternative high schools.
“We know we still have a lot of work to do,” Warwick said.
School Committee member Christopher Collins noted that one reason the drop-out rate is improving is the fact the more students are coming to – and staying in – school.
Warwick believes people will see improvement in the graduation rates in the future.
Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester said in a statement, “The credit for the terrific rates of improvement we’ve experienced belongs to the educators who on a daily basis reach out to at-risk students to encourage them to stay in school and support their pathway to graduation. Over the past five years our districts have identified students at increasingly younger ages who are at risk of not persisting to graduation – and have implemented supports and interventions to keep these students on track. The smart work of our schools is paying off for students and for the Commonwealth.”