July | August 2017



Massachusetts Program Has Worked to Reduce State Dropout Rate

Less than a decade ago, Massachusetts’ students were dropping out of school at an alarming rate. That has changed, thanks in part to a new program called MassGrad, which pairs at-risk students with graduation coaches, internships and other support services.
Education officials in January announced the state high school dropout rate to be at its lowest level in decades, noting big declines in such cities as Boston, Lawrence and Springfield.
The Boston Globe reports that only 2.2 percent of the state’s students quit high school in the 2012-13 school year. It is the fifth consecutive year the state has experienced a decline in its dropout rate.
“To see this kind of progress is tremendously encouraging and a tribute to the work of our school districts,” said Mitchell Chester, state commissioner of elementary and secondary education.
The Boston school district has experienced declining numbers of students quitting school since a peak in dropout rates during the 2005-06 school year, when nearly 10 percent of students quit school.
Eight years ago, Boston launched an initiative to address growing dropout rates, including a re-engagement center for students who had quit school, summer school programs and increased opportunities for students to take courses online.
These efforts, along with the state MassGrad program, seem to have worked. In the 2012-13 school year, Boston’s dropout rate was just 5.9 percent.
Springfield school district also saw big declines, with the dropout rate falling from 10 percent in the 2011-12 school year to 6.5 percent last year.
MassGrad is a statewide program funded through a $15 million five-year federal grant awarded in 2010.
More funding will be available for mental health services in Connecticut this year, CTnewsjunkie.com reported. In announcing his budget plan, Gov. Dannel Molloy proposed an additional $7.2 million for mental health programs. The new money would be used to fund an anti-stigma media campaign, rental assistance vouchers, increased services to young adults and other vulnerable populations, and crisis intervention training for police officers.
Projected shortfalls in Maine’s health and human services budget aren’t as grim as originally thought, the Bangor Daily News reported in January. Initial financial projections estimated a $108 million shortfall in the state’s Medicaid program, MaineCare, for the current budget biennium. Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew reported to lawmakers in January, however, that forecast has been revised to $78 million. Legislators continue to discuss ways to close the funding gap.
Legislators in New Hampshire are debating whether to tax nonprofit hospitals. Research indicates the state’s hospitals are both more charitable and less profitable than the national average, but the variation from hospital to hospital is wide. According to the New Hampshire Union Leader, New Hampshire lawmakers will consider House Bill 1590, which would extend a tax on payroll and interest payments, known as the Business Enterprise Tax, to nonprofit hospitals and private colleges.
A new report examines the cost of a proposal by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to increase classroom time for the state’s public schools. According to The Star-Ledger, the National Center on Time and Learning compiled data on the costs per pupil for five schools that have extended classroom time across the country, from Arizona to New Jersey. The ways in which schools extended school hours varied widely, as did the costs associated with them—ranging from $290 to more than $1,500 per student. The National Center on Time and Learning said adding hours to the school day is cheaper than adding days to the school calendar.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered a procedural change that will require courts to retain alternate jurors for the duration of a criminal trial, the Tribune-Review of Pittsburgh reported. Previously, jury alternates could be dismissed once deliberations began. They now will sit with the jury, hear evidence throughout the trial and remain until a verdict is reached. Under previous rules, deliberations had to start over when an alternate was brought on to the jury. Supreme Court officials hope the new rule will enable juries to reach a verdict more efficiently when alternates are brought on during a trial.