City class of 2003
kept getting smaller
43% didn't make it to graduation day Class kept shrinking
WORCESTER, MA Telegram & Gazette (Daily)
July 14, 2003
by Clive McFarlane
More than 40 percent of Worcester public school class of 2003 students who had
been enrolled in the ninth-grade left the school system, were held back or
failed to earn a diploma by graduation day.
According to state records, the class of 2003 had 1,979 students enrolled as
ninth-graders.By the 11th-grade, however, that enrollment had declined by 535
students, the records show. Between the 11th- and 12th-grade, the class
enrollment had declined by 188 more students.Of the 1,256 students who enrolled
in the 12th-grade, 136 did not pass the MCAS test, and, as result, did not
receive a diploma.
Overall, since the ninth-grade, 858 students, or 43.3 percent of the class of
2003, did not make it to graduation day.These statistics mean that
Massachusetts' decision to use high school graduation rates as an added measure
of a school district's performance will significantly increase the
accountability burden on Worcester and other urban school districts, school
Under current law, all schools and school districts in the state must make
yearly progress on a rating system based on student performance on the
Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests.
Failure to make progress could lead to schools being labeled as "needing
improvement," which allows families with children attending those schools to
become eligible to transfer to higher-performing schools or get free private
tutoring.Besides meeting their adequate yearly progress goals, schools must also
show at least a 70 percent high school graduation rate to avoid the "needs
Initially, the graduation rate will be based on a school's 12th-grade
enrollment, but beginning in 2005 it will be based on ninth- through 12th-grade
enrollment of the graduating class.School Committee member Brian A. O'Connell
said a large number of factors, including the mobility rate of students leaving
the system, participation in school choice programs and enrollment in parochial
and private schools are involved in the ninth-grade attrition rate.
"It is important to evaluate the school system based on the facts of student
performance, but its graduation rate has so many variables that are unrelated or
marginally related to academic proficiency, that it would, at best, mislead and,
at worst, be punitive to use it to assess and evaluate a school.
"School Committee member Kathleen M. Toomey agreed."We are being penalized for
something that we have no control over," she said."Worcester has worked hard
over the past decade to reduce our dropout rate and as a school district we will
continue to do the best we can.
"We have been held up as a model urban school system in the state, but all these
state and federal requirements are becoming the perfect storm. They are coming
up with the perfect way of how to destroy a school system.
"Meanwhile the Worcester high school attrition rate appeared heaviest among
Asian and Hispanic students.The ethnic breakdown was unavailable for the class
of 2003 ninth-grade enrollment, but based on the class's 11th-grade enrollment,
about 40 percent of the Asian students enrolled at the 11th-grade level and
about 34 percent of the Hispanic students at that grade level did not make it to
the 12th grade, or did not obtain a diploma.Of the 133 Asian students enrolled
at the 11th-grade level, 85 made it to the 12th grade, with 80 receiving
Among Hispanic students, 343 were enrolled in the 11th grade, 280 made it to the
12th grade, and 227 received diplomas.Conversely, 17 percent of black students
and 15.7 percent of white students enrolled in the 11th grade did not make it to
the 12th grade or receive a diploma.Students must pass the MCAS tests in English
and math to become eligible for a high school diploma, beginning with the class