An Act Relative to Dropout Prevention and Recovery


Requires all public schools to use the early warning indicator index system, or any successor data collection and tracking system; identifies and tracks students at risk of not graduating on time; requires school districts seeking to use other data collection and tracking systems not provided by the department to apply for a waiver; conducts a workshop for parents and teachers on effective strategies for involving parents in the education of their child and parental involvement in the education of at risk students; regulates the suspension and expulsion of students, as described herein, who are not charged with a felony; attempts to prevent dropout rate.


Lead Sponsor

Sonia Chang-Diaz


Despite several decades of efforts to reduce dropout rates in Massachusetts, the percent of student leaving public school each year prior to earning a high school diploma continues to be persistent.  Massachusetts dropout rates are disproportionately high among Hispanic and Black or African-American students, students from low-income families, limited English proficient students, and special education students.

As Senator Chang-Diaz said in her press release: Each year, about 8,000 Massachusetts high school students drop out of school, with far-reaching consequences for the entire state. The average high school dropout in Massachusetts will impose a net fiscal burden of nearly $118,124 on state and federal taxpayers, whereas the average high school graduate will contribute $319,043 over the course of his or her lifetime—a gap of $437,167. Dropouts also make up 70 percent of the state’s jail and prison populations, at an average annual cost of about $46,000 per person. Conversely, Massachusetts employers currently have 120,000positions that remain unfilled due to a lack of skilled workers.

More information on dropout prevention can be found here.

Current Status Last session this bill was reported favorably out of the Education Committee but languished in Senate Ways and Means because of cost concerns.  Hearing was held on October3, 2013 at 10:00 AM in Gardner Auditorium.


Ann Ferioli Education Advocate Justice Resource Institute
Over the past 8 years, I have seen how easy it is for kids to walk away from their education. Sometimes they are even encouraged. There are kids who have been held back a few times, who are dropping out in middle school. Changing the age to 18, shows people that this is important. They can?t support their families.
Beth Anderson CEO
Phoenix Charter Academy Network
Allowing students to leave school at 16, says that a 16 year olds are viable adults. But that is clearly not true. Drop outs are disproportionately black and brown. Phoenix Charter schools service at risk students who don?t achieve well in traditional schools. We work to reengage students and give them the skills they need to graduate college. Our students don?t let motherhood, incarceration or lack of English stop them from getting an education. You have seen how amazing many of these kids are. How many more are out there, who just haven?t found the right chance or the right person who believes in them? If we raise the age, we can invest in these programs that save kids.
April Duguay Academic Coordinator
Holyoke High School
I became a graduation coach to help students and families. Some of my students even bring friends. As word gets out, more and more students ask for a graduation coach. We meet one on one at least once a week. We talk about goals and grades. We look at the home situation with housing and food. We get to know them as people. We keep in contact with families. Many times, we become very involved in the child?s life. It is very fulfilling but also challenging and emotionally draining. It is wonderful to watch them graduate.
Falorent Jackson Concerned Citizen
I dropped out of high school because I felt very alone and depressed. I was trying to hide from shame and from the public. When I first met my mentor, she wasn?t like the teachers at school who didn?t care. She came to my house in the morning before school to get me going. We set goals and she helped me. She was a judgment free zone. This bill helps students by enhancing the system to identity students who may drop out. If I had been targeted early, I would not have fallen so far behind. I graduated and am now at Cambridge College, and I know I would not have made it without my mentor. What are you going to sacrifice to help our young people?
Sylvia Ramirez Chelsea Collaborative
I am here as a parent. We have a kid working in my program who is from Africa. He is homeless and lives in a shelter. He was pushed out and he was told by people in the school to drop out and get a job to pay for housing. He has found help. His goal is to graduate, but he is still homeless. Our youth need our support and encouragement to prevent drop out.
Martin Martinez President
Mass Mentoring Partnership
This bill addresses systematic gaps to achievement. This brings informal mentoring into the school building. This support is an important part of what is needed to help young people succeed. Lack of a caring adult is a leading cause for disengagement. It is critical for young people for social and emotional support. Youth who have a positive relationship with an adult have better attitudes, less disciplinary problems and are more likely to attend college. We have been in the pilot version of the program in Holyoke High School. Graduation coaches are an additional layer of support. I was the first person in my family to go to college because I had additional support. It?s not just about financial investment. It?s about personal investment as well.
Joella Bradski Concerned Citizen
I attend Boston Adult Ed Academy. This bill is necessary for students like myself. I dropped out at 16 and when I returned I couldn?t fit it. As an older student, I couldn?t fit into the classes. This bill will help society because it will help recover drop outs. I really want to see this bill succeed. I want to be a good role model for my kids.
Stephen Sullivan Holyoke High School
According to DESE, 77% of student in Holyoke are high needs. A grant helped with 10 graduation coaches to handle 10 students each. Most work with more like 15 students, because the need is so high. Each one has worked hard to build a relationship with students and their families. They make a plan to help them graduate. We have seen small gains and hope these interventions will us increase that rate further. They improve students? academic and social skills and help meet their needs with teachers, administrators and families. Students are starting to refer themselves to the program, so we know they believe in it.
Rivera College Bound
I dropped out at 17. It was when I found concerned and committed adults, that I got back on track and am headed to college.
Emily Barnaby Graduation Coach
The program I work with places a full time masters level coordinator in schools that are under performing to focus on kids with higher needs. It increases graduation rates. For each $1 dollar invested in a coordinator, you save $11.60 cents returned to the community. That?s $22 million coming back to federal and state tax revenue and $154 million saved through decreased incarceration and social programs. We work in three public schools and are prepared to work in more. We have similar programs in Georgia, and their legislation is similar to this. They made an investment of $75,000 per site coordinator. It was an appropriation of $2.5 million and they saw improvements in attendance and graduation of 97% of students in those schools. We are ready and willing to do this work. Chang-Diaz: What is the time frame on that return on investment? Barnaby: I think it is three years.
Jason Williams Stand For Children
We must act now to help at risk students. I grew up as an at-risk student and there is no way I would have graduated college, if not for the strong support of the adults in my life. The accuracy of the drop out risk increases when we use multiple factors. Coaching and raising the attendance age will provide a solution to this difficult problem.
Norieliz De Jesus Chelsea Collaborative
I graduated from high school in five years rather than four. Because I was encouraged, I was able to get a full scholarship to college and became the youngest member on the Chelsea City Council. In a low income community, teens take on the responsibility of adults and work to support their family. When they are able to drop out at 16, the pressures of daily life cloud their vision of the future. Schools should be a strong supporter.
Russet Morrill United Way of Merrimack Valley
The drop out crisis is a priority for United Way. We have a Road to Oppourntinites Initiative to establish partnerships for pathways to success. It is high quality services to a number of educational options. Efforts must be aimed at preventing youth from dropping out in the first place. Academic supports, reducing risky behaviors, and mentoring really make a difference. We need to ramp these services up and coordinate them statewide.
Ayana Concerned Citizen
This bill will help students. As a former drop out, I thought I had no hope. But the alternative school was a place where I felt like I was doing the right thing for the first time in a long time. I found hope again and I was learning.
Bill Nichol Independent Social Action Committee
Our program services disconnected youth ages 16-24. We have many requests for additional classes. The cost is about $2,600 per student. We enroll between 175-250 students per year depending on funding. The students are 97% students of color, often without family supports and housing issues. Many have mental health and addiction issues or are victims of violence. We lost 16 students in the 16 years of the program to violence. The violence has a direct impact on our kids. We have very caring adults which makes the program a success. We support this bill because it addresses non-tradiontal programming. Study after study has proven that it takes a caring adult to make a difference.
Alejandra St Guillen Executive Director
The number one issue I hear about in the Latino community is education. They are concerned that their kids aren?t getting a quality education. A report call Academic Achievement of Latino Students in Boston School from 2006-2009 found that Latinos are the largest ethnic group in Boston. They have the highest rate of poverty and absenteeism and the lowest MCAS scores. Latino students in grade 4, 8 and 10 failed at the highest rate especially among those who were male, black, chronically absent or who had been held back. There is an early warning index which would help these students. The third grade reading exam would be critical to early intervention, especially for English Language Learners. A graduation coach could alter a student?s trajectory. This bill would have a tremendous impact on students who are struggling. Now is the time to do this.
Sen. Barrett, Michael (D) State Senator
MA Senate
Waltham has 60,000 people. It?s faces substantial problems. We have a number of poor families in an otherwise middle class city. We need the resources that this bill would provide. I am from Lexington, which is viewed as having an excellent school. But in the last several years, two sons of wealthy families have dropped out. Personal turbulence has stopped them and it took them years to get back on track while working. The need for graduation coaching is clear. This is an issue that confronts all districts and towns.
Neil Sullivan Executive Director
Boston Private Industry Council
There are so many young people who would come back to school if someone supported them and designed a program to help them, they would come back. I see it every day. We can get them back. We just need a different kind of schooling. Some students just don?t learn in the same ways. We need to keep expectations high for those who respond and a second strategy for those who walk away. These kids withdraw early, like ages 8 and 9. We started outreach and so many teenagers were coming back that we overwhelmed the outreach center in Boston. If we raise the drop out age, we will create a new crisis. Adults will have to respond. It will be no less damaging than the crisis we already have. Except now, the adults will need to respond. You have to start before you?re ready, because otherwise you won?t know what to do.
Rep. Cabral, Antonio (D) State Representative
MA House of Representatives
Every child needs a high school diploma in the modern age. When students are not allowed to drop out, they do better. President Obama proposed that all states should have a mandatory attendance age of 18. Massachusetts should be a leader in education. It?s time to lead again. Many states have already changed their laws like Rhode Island, CT, and New Hampshire. We must change our attendance requirements. In 2012, only 58% of New Bedford students received a diploma in four years. According to DESE last year, over 20% of students dropped out. Many gateway cities remain stagnant while the rest of the state trends upward. A 2009 study by Northeastern University said it will cost $292,000 in lost tax revenue and costs compared to high school graduate. The South Coast Urban Initiative found that lower educated districts had more difficulty attracting jobs and businesses. Even areas close to the hub are struggling. Chelsea has a graduation rate of 58.3%. We have a lot of work to do. We need to it this year. The Governor supports it. It?s time to make it happen.
Mark Culliton CEO
College Bound Dorchester
I have seen the value of graduation coaches to help students stay on track. In our program, we use private dollars to send college advisors to connect with hard to reach students who work on social and emotional development. Many programs have a similar type of graduation coaches. At College Bound, our students graduate at a level 20% higher than the rest of the school. In Boston, there is a vast array of coaches who can serve this function. It is critical to support a broad array of alternative education. Traditional schools can?t accommodate many students. I?m not sure if raising the age alone will help. We need an array of school options and alternatives. We need places specific for recovering students, bilinguage students and other special segments. There is no one system for all learners. One of my students failed from three schools after she had a child and lost her housing. She came to College Bound and got a GED. She has starting working and got her life in order. She is on the Dean?s List at Bunker Hill now. Many people can get lost for a while, and we need to help them find their way back to a better life.
Rep. Balser, Ruth (D) State Representative
MA House of Representatives
This is important for every child in the Commonwealth. My grandfather grew up in the west end and started working at five years old. By sixth grade he was out of school more than in it. He needed to support his family. He raised three kids and sent them all to college, but always regretted not staying in school. When I ran into difficulty in school in my life, the one thing that kept me going was his story. We can?t give up on your children. There was no teacher saying that I was worth it. No adult was willing to help me through it. I slipped through the cracks. We see students giving up on themselves and it means that we have to try harder. This bill says loud and clear that we are not going to give up on kids.
Chad d?Entremount Executive Director
Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy
We have pursued research on school policies and produced two studies of best practices to prevent drop out. The bill today aligns with our research findings and considerations. Successful schools used data to identify students at risk and have an advisory program. They offer additional academic programing and support non-academic needs and build explicit connections between high school and careers. We must ask ourselves five questions. One, is student disengagement being addressed? Dropping out is a gradual process. Two; is there support for continued data collection and analysis? Three, is the development of new education options encouraged? Evening and summer courses and work based credit can help. Four, are we strengthening career counseling. It supports long term career goals. Five, is there a commitment to drop out recovery along with prevention? There is good evidence on strategies, but you need a comprehensive approach. It is a significant commitment. New programs bring new costs and they require a funding stream and new policies need to be enforced and staff must be trained. But the return on investment is significant when students remain in school. It is worth the investment.
Ayanna Pressley City Councilor
City of Boston
We need a holistic approach. These components are critical to support struggling young people. Please make sure the bill includes supports for expectant and parenting youth. Pregnancy is the number one reason that girls drop out. Without help for these teens, our efforts fall short. Just because your dreams are postponed doesn?t mean they are derailed. I have worked with many expectant mothers who want desperately to complete school, but have little support and little knowledge about their options. Many teen parents say that it initially increased their commitment to education, but they need extra support. It is the moral thing to do and it is a smart economic investment.
Keith Mahoney Director of Public Affairs
The Boston Foundation
We work to strengthen the education pipeline. There is a partnership in Boston between non-profits committed to doubling the 6 year college graduation rate. It has been successful and enrollment in remedial courses is down. There is a track record of success of placing individuals with an array of supports, including transition support. There is an increase persistence rate of 20% especially among black and Latino students.
Haley Shannon Concerned Citizen
This is a partnership which helped me recover and get my diploma. I was in Lowell High School and was very depressed. I stopped eating and was almost homeless. I fell behind in school and I couldn?t concentrate. I couldn?t handle the pressure because of my anxiety. I went to YouTech and I loved it more than anything. They are so helpful and positive. I have a transitional coach and now I can focus. I actually feel like I am going to succeed now. There should be more alternative education to help struggling students.
Freddy Fuentes Education Options
Boston Public Schools
I have worked with at risk students. Many students are seeking to make a difference in their lives and we need to help them succeed and give them options. Massachusetts is one of the most progressive states in the country and is lauded for it high standards. We are a mecca for secondary education. We have students with significant challenges who are ill equipped and have not seen the opportunities available to many. We need to increase graduation coaches and recovery work. In Boston, we are recovering many youths who are looking for a second chance. Yet, in non-traditional education, we are falling behind California, Colorado and Washington. In these states there is policy and funding for these programs. In our state, our data and tracking shows us who are at risk. We need to make serious changes statewide and increase funding and options for differentiated students. Henriquez: Is ten students the ideal case load? Are some of the coaches teachers as well? Sullivan: Our coaches do everything. Generally, they meet outside of school hours. We need fulltime coaches because it is a social emotional issue. So they need to get the close ties and the time to give. Chang-Diaz: Where is the Mass Grad funding coming from? Sullivan: We were awarded an additional two years in grant money. We are trying to make the work sustainable even after the grant money runs out.
Matthew Jenskins Fitchburg Cleghorn Youth Center
I considered dropping out but the Youth Center encouraged me not to drop out. This bill would help community support systems and prevent drop outs. More drop out coaches would reduce the risk. Please support this bill and help kids have a safe place to go.
Linda Noonan Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education
I have been here for many years now testifying on drop out legislation. I hate to think of the cost to the state and students who have dropped out. Don?t take any longer. Take action. The loss to those student and society is huge. We spend more money on services for their lifetime than on these programs that put them on track to graduation. I work with small businesses and the number one concern is finding talent that matches jobs. We have a growing skills gap and we must face it. I have seen great data on people in NYC, who found that students who are two or more years over age have a 20% graduation rate. Transfer schools are graduating students at 60-70%, so we know they work.
Michael Curry President
Boston NAACP
For 102 years, we have been an advocate for many issues, including a quality education. There is a growing opportunity divide. We support these bills. We join a chorus of other education advocates calling for an end to this crisis that ends in unemployment and poverty. Education is still the motor that drives our economy and helps Massachusetts remain competitive. Employers want to be in Massachusetts because of our educated workforce. Our ability to deliver is how we respond to lost talent. Each year that we ignore the dropout rate, we undercut our top competitive advantage. A rising tide is not lifting all boats. In communities in color, our youth are dropping out and falling victims of crime. There are over 1000 drop outs a year in Boston. There is a conversation around mass incarceration, teen pregnancy and violence, and it all comes back to education. This is a personal issue for me. Of all my friends who were murdered or incarcerated, none of them graduated high school. This is important for everyone in every community.
Lauren Bard Site Coordinator
English High School
I get to work directly with young people who need support. One student came to my attention through early warning indicators. He told me had been arrested. Through working with him, we helped him to meet the expectations of the court. He was homeless and living in a shelter. He had a job. We worked to make a budget and looked for housing and started a bank account. He got a state ID to file taxes and pay his back rent. Being a site coordinator is a wonderful job because it makes such a different. Henriquez: How many more site coordinators do you think you would need and what resources do you need? Bard: At English High School, we have about 600 students. We have a case load of about 10%. Right now that is not possible. We would need several more. Right now, I have to focus on connecting students to outside resources. Forry: I think it?s important to have a counselor as well as a site coordinator.
James Jolicoeur Superintendent
Leominster Public Schools
I support this change to the mandatory age of attendance to 18, but only if the legislature support flexibility and financing for non-tradition approaches. We have an innovation school called the Leominster Center for Excellence, which helps students who don?t integrate well in the standard high school classes. Most of these students will be successful given support, but will not be able to pass the high school testing. These entrepreneurial and innovative approaches can make these goals possible.
John Connolly City Councilor
City of Boston
S208 is a strong bill that reflects the hole of the issue. We need to make an impact for young people across the state. Right now in Massachusetts, if you are 16, you can?t vote or buy cigarettes but you can make a decision to put the lowest ceiling possible on your future. A 16 year old is not in a position to make a life alerting decision in a vacuum. That young person becomes the most likely to be incarcerated, chronically unemployed, and to live the remainder of their life in poverty. It?s about changing programing and the nature of our schools. We need a law that backs it up. Please find a way to make a bill into a law and back up the teachers and counselors trying to help our children. Henriquez: Thank you for your focus on education.
Sen. Chang-Diaz, Sonia (D) State Senator
MA Senate
Let?s focus on the big picture questions. In 1934, FDR said ?No country can afford the waste of its human resources.? In our modern age, the demoralization of long term unemployment is palpable. By 2018, 70% of jobs will require higher education. The opportunities and the potential waste in our state are enormous. Massachusetts is the birthplace of public education and we must get at the root causes of what causes drop outs. We have seen strategies like this work in pilot programs. This bill seeks to take a comprehensive approach and scale them up to a statewide basis. The bill asks all actors in a student?s life to be a part of the solution for our young people. The costs of inaction are extreme.
Rachel Swift College Bound
If it weren?t for College Bound and the great people there, I would not have finished my GED. And now I am hoping to be enrolled in college in January. Not everyone has parents that support them. We need you to believe in us.
Tito Jackson City Councilor
City of Boston
I support this bill because it supports young people facing unique life challenges. We need to move quickly. We are throwing away a $169,000 investment for each person we let drop out. What happens when they drop out? 16-24 year old drop outs annual income is on average $2,600 dollars a year. The chance of being incarcerated is 28/100 every day. You can?t drink or smoke or vote, but we allow you to make a life changing decision. We have to prevent this. Too often, these young people end up badly. I have been to too many funerals. It?s time to change this and stop letting people fall through the cracks. Boston loses 1000 young people each year. We can invest in these programs or we can pay for incarceration and social services later.
Estefani Puhol Concerned Citizen
I support this bill. I was a drop out at age 16 because of health problems. I was in the hospital for five months and fell behind. I started working for minimum wage. A local help center got me reenrolled in school. I graduated and now attend community college. I think the age limit should be changed because I know that people that age aren?t mature enough to make these decisions.
Virginia Velasquez Stand For Children
I am single mother in Springfield. I ran away from home at 13. I chose to go into state custody and was pregnant at 15. I was told to repeat 10th grade and chose to drop out. No one encouraged me to stay in school. I decided to get my GED two years ago and my oldest son told me he wanted to drop out when he was 15. I want my sons to have a better chance in life. Our children need more support and encouragement to continue their education. Please raise the minimum attendance age.
Sarisa Rodrigues Concerned Citizen
I go to an alternative education school for drop outs. I think the age should be 18, because when I was 16 I was working and didn?t know I needed help. The way I learn is very different from other people. Traditional school was not working for me and I was struggling. Some people need to go at a different pace. The three year pilot program is a good idea. This will help young kids who are confused to focus on something to do with their lives.
Lilli Allen Back on Track Designs
Jobs for the Future
We are a non-profit devoted to improving education and economic outcomes for low income adults. We help to create new options for older students. These two issues, raiding the attendance age and creating of new alternative schools are linked. We need to signal to young people that there are serious economic consequences to dropping out. We must also help people who are off track and offer a balance of academics and support. Communities have made stride in improving models. We need more options which can double and triple the graduation rate for this population. It can create on ramps to secondary education.


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