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[Susan notes: Anne Wheelock research and persistence in documenting actual graduation rates are invaluable.]

Submitted to but not published
Boston Globe

To the editor

In an article describing high school graduation rates ("Graduation rates are lower than reported, study indicates," 27 February 2005, Boston Public Schools spokesperson Joe Palumbo puts Boston's graduation rate is 85.5%. Palumbo bases this figure on the number of students who passed MCAS in both math and English last year compared with the number still in school. This perfectly illustrates how officials have under-reported these rates.

Graduation rates should be based on the number of students graduating compared with the number who started out in the class. In October 2000,

6,009 students were enrolled in grade 9 in Boston's class of 2004. After five re-tests, only 3,145 Boston students had passed MCAS as of June 2004.

When all original members of the class of 2004 are included in the accounting, Boston's on-time graduation rate is 52.3%. Even allowing for

two extra years to finish school by basing calculations on 4,600 students enrolled in grade 7 in 1998, Boston's graduation rate is still only

68.4%. Rates for African American and Latino students are even lower.

School holding power in urban districts is fragile for many reasons. Graduation rates among urban and minority youth have declined dramatically since the MCAS graduation requirement took effect. Inexplicably, though, Massachusetts has not funded dropout prevention programs since 1997.

The gap between the educational haves and have-nots is widening in Massachusetts. The state desperately needs new leadership to head up a

well-funded, focused initiative to strengthen school holding power for urban students.

Anne Wheelock

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