MALDEN, Mass. (AP) - Improvements by Hispanic, low-income and non-native English speaking students helped drive up Massachusetts' public high school graduation rate for the seventh consecutive year, state education officials announced Monday.
Eighty-five percent of students who entered as ninth-graders in 2009-10, or entered that class at any point, graduated within four years, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said.
The state's annual dropout rate also fell to 2.2 percent in the 2012-13 academic year, the fifth consecutive year below 3 percent and lowest rate in more than three decades.
"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," Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester said. "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 graduation rates of black and Asian students also improved, but graduation rates of students with disabilities fell slightly.
The latest year's graduation rate was 0.3 percentage points higher than the previous year and up 5.1 percentage points from 2006.
Last year's improvement in the dropout rate meant that 803 fewer students dropped out in 2012-13 than during the previous school year, and 5,188 fewer students dropped out than in 2006-07, when the annual dropout rate was at a high mark of 3.8 percent.
Urban districts, including Boston, Springfield, Worcester, Lawrence and New Bedford, had the best success in cutting the dropout rate.
"A high school diploma is a necessity for anyone hoping to live the American dream. We must invest in what we know works to provide all students with the supports and resources they need to reach this goal," Education Secretary Matthew Malone said.