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More Boston Public Schools Students Are Graduating High School Within Four Years

EMK 2018 Graduates

2018 graduates of Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers are pictured above.

On Thursday, February 28, state education officials released the Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) annual graduation rates for 2018, showing continued growth overall with 75.1 percent of high school students graduating within four years. This represents a 2.4 percentage point increase from the previous year, and a 17.2 percentage point increase since 2007 when the four-year graduation rate was 57.9 percent.


BPS also saw the percentage of students graduating high school within five years climb to 78.6 percent in 2017, which is a 0.2 percent increase from 2016.


“I am proud that we are continuing to make great strides in ensuring that more students than ever are graduating from our high schools,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “It is critical that every student who enters the Boston Public Schools leaves prepared to succeed in college, career and life. That is why as a city we are so committed to making sure our students are given the greatest opportunity to excel in school.” 


When focusing on student subgroup populations, Black students showed the most significant one-year gain in the four-year graduation rate, with 7.5 percent more students graduating on time. Additionally, gains between 2 and 3 percentage points were demonstrated for males, females, English learners, students with disabilities, and Asian students from 2017 to 2018. However, Hispanic/Latino students underwent a 1.4 percentage point decrease. 


The statewide graduation rate for 2018 is 87.8 percent, which is a 0.5 percentage point decline from the previous year. The BPS graduation rate has risen at a faster pace over the past 11 years, with the district’s graduation rate increasing 17.2 percentage points since 2007, compared to the state rate increasing 6.9 percentage points during the same time period. The gap between the state’s rate and the BPS rate has been cut almost in half since 2007 when the gap was at its largest, at 23 percentage points, compared to 12.7 percentage points in 2018.


“The increased high school graduation rate demonstrates that the hard work and dedication of our students and faculty are producing positive results,” said Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto. “There is always more work to do, and this news will only encourage Boston Public Schools to work even harder to provide successful outcomes for students.”


BPS has also released its annual dropout rate for 2018, which is 5.4 percent, representing a 1 percent increase over 2017 when the district experienced a historic low. Nearly all student population subgroups experienced an increase in their dropout rates between about 0.5 percent and 3 percent since 2017. In recent years, the BPS dropout rate reached a high of 9.9 percent in 2006, and a low of 4.4 percent in 2017.


“The increased graduation rate shows growth among most student population groups, particularly Black students, and this is certainly encouraging. It gives us all inspiration to continue helping students learn and achieve at high levels,” said BPS Interim Superintendent Laura Perille. “While the graduation rate is promising, there are still too many high school students who are off track, particularly in our Latinx student population. We must continue to find ways to lift up our youth and eliminate barriers to their success.”


BPS' efforts to close opportunity and achievement gaps have, in particular, yielded significant gains among the district’s Black students in 2018. The four-year graduation rate for Black students in 2018 improved by 7.5 percentage points over the 2017 rate and by 15.5 percentage points from 10 years ago, rising from 59.6 percent in 2008 to 75.1 percent in 2018. The district also experienced a 3.1 percentage point increase in the graduation rate for English learner students, and a similar 2.1 percentage point increase in the graduation rate for students with disabilities.


Numerous BPS schools experienced increases in their four-year graduation rates, including Excel High School in South Boston, Another Course to College in Hyde Park, and the William Henderson K-12 Inclusion School in Dorchester.


  • Excel High School, which was identified by the state as needing targeted intervention and support in 2016, made one of the most significant jumps in the district with its four-year graduation rate at 82.9 percent for 2018, an increase of 12.6 percentage points from 2017, and 31.3 percentage points since 2014 when the graduation rate was 51.6 percent. Excel saw significant increases in graduation rates for several student subgroups from 2017 to 2018: a 35 percentage point increase for students with disabilities, which is now 75.7 percent; an 11.8 percentage point increase for Hispanic/Latino students, which is now 64.7 percent; and a 4.7 percentage point increase for Black students, which is now 85.2 percent.


  • Another Course to College experienced a 10.2 percentage point increase from the previous year with a four-year graduation rate of 89.6 percent. The four-year graduation rate for Hispanic/Latino students increased 12.4 percentage points to 95 percent; and the four-year graduation rate for Black students increased 9.7 percentage points to 85.7 percent.


  • Henderson K-12 Inclusion School, which serves a large percentage of students with special needs, now has a four-year graduation rate of 77.1 percent which is a 6.7 percentage point increase since 2017 and a 21.2 percentage point increase since 2016, the first year the school had a four-year graduation rate. This includes a 10.2 percentage point increase since 2017 for students with disabilities.


Renee McCall, headmaster of Excel High School, said the school faculty has used an approach that elevates students’ assets, as opposed to deficits, as a practice to improve school performance. The school also made adjustments to scheduling to provide for individualized support for students, along with online courses and an expanded night school program.


“We invested the time to understand the specific academic needs of our senior class,” McCall said. “The expertise of our staff, when combined with conditions that support individualized instruction, is helping improve outcomes for students at Excel.”


Patricia Lampron, principal of the Henderson K-12 Inclusion School, said her school develops individualized education plans with all high school students regardless of whether or not they have special needs.


“I attribute our increased graduation rate to our practice of personalizing education for every student,” Lampron said. “You need to work with each student to identify what they need to be successful, both in academics and in their personal lives. Our school routinely finds resources for students who are experiencing trauma, poverty, and homelessness. It’s the right thing to do and it helps them become better learners.”


Click here to view more information on the BPS graduation rates.


Click here to view the BPS drop out rates.