Education: High School Dropout Rates

Findings

A high school dropout is a student in grades 9 through 12 who leaves school prior to graduation without transferring or re-enrolling before the following October 1. The annual dropout rate is the percentage of high school students who drop out of school in a given year. The data presented in this section are produced by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. 

Dropout rates in the region have varied slightly over the past five years, with rates highest in the 2007-2008 and 2008-09 school years followed by a subsequent drop-off in the 2009-10 school year.

By Race/Ethnicity:

Over the past five years, dropout rates for Blacks/African Americans and Latinos in the region have remained at least three times as high as dropout rates for Whites and Asians.

By Geography:

Dropout rates in parts of the Inner Core and a few Regional Urban Centers are significantly higher than the dropout rates in most Developing Suburbs.  Although some municipalities with the highest dropout rates, such as Somerville, Lynn, Randolph, Watertown, Waltham and Rockland experienced an increase in dropout rates from 2006 to 2010, other areas have seen improvement. For example, Winthrop and Salem have shown improvement over the past five years despite their high dropout rate.

Some municipalities have moderate overall dropout rates but relatively high dropout rates for Black/African American or Latino student populations. For instance, Woburn had overall dropout rates in 2009-10 of less than 6% but African American and Latino dropout rates of greater than 25% each. Some towns, however, have very comparable dropout rates among races, like in Cambridge, for example; while others have lower dropout rates for Black/African American and Latino students than for the population overall, like in Brookline. 

By Select Populations:

Students with special learning needs, like those in special education programs or English language learners, are far more likely to drop out than other students, and this discrepancy is even more pronounced for students who have been held back a grade.  Dropout rates in Metro Boston are more than twice as high for special education students than they are for the student population overall. This means that we are still failing to meet the needs of the students who are the most in need of special help and attention.

Importance and Implications

For Individuals:

Dropping out of high school has a significant long-term impact on individuals. National and local research has shown that high school dropouts are much less likely to find a well-paying job, are generally less healthy, die earlier, are less likely to wed, are more likely to become parents at a young age, are more likely to need social welfare assistance, and have greater exposure to the criminal justice system15. Learn more...

In fact, a local study found that young male high school dropouts were forty-seven times as likely to be incarcerated as were their peers with four-year college degrees16.  Those dropouts who gain employment are still at a disadvantage. According to the 2009 American Community Survey, the median 12 month earnings for adults 25 years and older in the Boston metropolitan statistical area (MSA)  was around $ 30,518 in 2009 inflation adjusted dollars for those whose highest degree was a high school diploma and only $ 20,650 for those who did not complete high school. In other words, those with no more educational attainment than a high school degree earned 48% more, on average, than those who did not finish high school or receive an equivalency.

The impact is particularly difficult for Black/African American dropouts. A Boston-based study found that employed Black/African American male dropouts in 1999 earned 32% less than their Asian, Latino, and White counterparts. Furthermore, they found that Black/African American male dropouts are at least three times as likely as their counterparts to be incarcerated16

For the Region:

These impacts, detrimental to the livelihood of an individual and his or her family, are costly to society as well. Increased dropout rates have been found to fuel poverty, increase conflicts in communities, and raise public costs for law and social services15. A high school graduate is likely to have increased purchasing power, pay more in taxes, and be a more productive member of the workforce. The Alliance for Educational Excellence estimated that if Massachusetts dropouts in 2008-2009 had graduated with their class, their total lifetime additional income would have been nearly $4 billion15

High School Dropout Rates Over Time

High School Dropout Rates Over Time

High School Dropout Rates by Race/Ethnicity

High School Dropout Rates by Race/Ethnicity

Dropout Rate by Race/Ethnicity: MAPC and Massachusetts

Dropout Rate by Race/Ethnicity: MAPC and Massachusetts

Dropout Rate by Municipality

Dropout Rate by Municipality

Change in High School Dropout Rates

Change in High School Dropout Rates

Dropout Rates for Select Populations

Dropout Rates for Select Populations

Dropout Rate for Black/African American Students

Dropout Rate for Black/African American Students

Dropout Rate: Latino Students

Dropout Rate: Latino Students