Thursday, April 16, 2009

School Updates: Dropouts, Assignment Plan

The Mass. Department of Education reports an improvement in the annual dropout rate for Boston schools. The latest figures are for the school year 2007-2008, when the annual dropout rate was 7.6 percent. That's the lowest figure in six years. In the two years before the most recent figures, the dropout rate was almost 8.9%, and the year before that it was 9.9 percent.

But the Boston figures for 2007-2008 still had racial gaps. The highest rate was for Hispanic students, at 10.2 percent. The next highest figures were for black students (7.4%) and white students (5.3%), with the lowest figure for Asian students (2.5%). There was also a gender gap, with the rate for male students at 8.2%, and the rate for female students at 6.9 percent.

The annual rate is used less often for measuring the dropout problem than the rate that tracks students throughout high school. The increase in the annual rate for Boston began its last increase in 2003-2003, around the time of cutbacks following an economic slowdown. The high dropout rate for Hispanic students may reflect some of the problems with English Language Learners discussed in a recent report by the Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development & Public Policy and the Center for Collaborative Education.

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A series of public meetings will take place about possible changes in the student assignment plan for the Boston Public Schools. As a way to reduce transportation costs, officials have been considering a possible increase in the number of school assignment zones. Boston currently has three zones. More zones would mean that parents would have to make choices from fewer schools, though officials say there has been a general preference among parents for schools that are close to home. Officials say they hope a new plan will have four kinds of benefits: lower transportation costs, more walkable communities, a range of school choice, and continuity of educational experience.

The series of meetings will begin Wednesday, April 29, with the presentation of a revised assignment plan with five zones. The meeting will take place at 26 Court Street in downtown Boston, in the Winter Chambers. All meetings will begin at 6 p.m. The remaining meetings are as follows:

Thursday, May 7. Umana Middle School Academy. 312 Border Street, East Boston
Tuesday, May 12. Edison Middle School. 60 Glenmount Road, Brighton
Monday, May 18. Lewis Middle School. 131 Walnut Avenue, Roxbury
Wednesday, May 20. McCormack Middle School. 315 Mt. Vernon Street, Dorchester
Tuesday, May 26. Irving Middle School. 105 Cummins Highway, Roslindale
Wednesday, June 3. Boston School Dept. 26 Court Street,Winter Chambers (recommendations by superintendent)
Wednesday, June 24. Boston School Dept. 26 Court Street,Winter Chambers (vote by School Committee)