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Excellence and Equity for All: Unlocking Opportunities for Off-Track Youth in Boston Public Schools

May 1, 2018

In 2007, Boston Public Schools commissioned a report from EY-Parthenon to examine how the district was serving youth who were off-track to graduate from high school. That examination of the dropout pipeline revealed a serious need for improvement and was followed by investments in some crucial areas, and in alternative education in particular, to better serve our youth. Since then, significant efforts have been made by BPS and by the Boston community as a whole to support all of our students not just to graduation, but also to a fruitful life after high school. Thanks to these concerted efforts, the BPS four-year graduation rate has risen from 57.9% in 2007 to 72.7% in 2017. Over the same time frame, the annual dropout rate has fallen from 7.9% to 3.6%. But these improvements are not enough. With that in mind, last year I commissioned a second report to update our understanding of how our secondary schools support our youth who are off-track to graduate. With support from the Barr Foundation, EY-Parthenon has worked tirelessly to identify patterns of when, why, and how students fall off-track to graduate, as well as which early warning indicators might help us see which students are at risk to fall off track.The results of this study support what we suspected: (1) some of our own policies are contributing to the inadequate service for our youth and (2) our practices are not yet sufficiently developed to prevent students from falling off-track or to help them recover fully if they do. I concur fully with the findings and recommendations presented in this report. BPS will act decisively and with the support of our partners to implement these recommendations. We must be bold, not incremental, so that we see significant change following from this report. This report has given BPS a strong foundation and clear direction from which to act. I have directed staff to develop an initial response to the report including a set of actions that can be taken immediately. I will also convene a steering committee to formulate a longer-term strategic plan to address each of the findings and the recommendations and their implications in detail. My team and I are extremely grateful for the generous support from the Barr Foundation that enabled this crucial analysis. We are equally grateful to the EY-Parthenon team for their dedication to rigorous and honest analysis. Our commitment is to dramatic, not incremental, change.