During last week’s school committee meeting, Superintendent Tutwiler, reported on the 2019 graduation rate for the four high schools in the district. While the report had shown fairly steady results in the past six years, there has been an increase in the graduation rate by nearly a full percentage point, as peer districts (Brockton, Lawrence, Boston, and Springfield) had a slight decrease.
Tutwiler broke down the pros and cons of the current graduation status. Lynn Vocational Technical Institute showed noteworthy progress, with a graduation rate of 89.5 percent, a 30 percent upswing since 2006. This is the highest graduation rate that the school has had in 13 years.
Lynn Classical showed a 7 percent increase, leaping from 75.3 percent in 2018 to 82.5 percent in 2019.
While Lynn English was steady over the past three years, it dipped from 72.7 percent in 2018 to 70 percent in 2019. The drop is a concern for the district, considering it is now closer to “turnaround status.” When a school drops to a graduation rate of 66.7 percent, they are automatically placed in turnaround status, which will require the school to adhere to a specific set of activities gauged at improvement. The Department of Education establishes a threshold that a school must stay above before requiring assistance.
Fecteau-Leary had the most dramatic drop in graduation rate, dipping from 34.1 percent in 2018 to 19.4 percent in 2019.
“This outcome is not reflected in the hard work that this school does,” said Tutwiler, who believes there is a reason for the decline. “I want to be transparent about why there is such a precipitous increase at Lynn Classical and such a decline at Fecteau.”
According to Tutwiler, four years ago, there was an influx of ELL (English Language Learners) students and due to space issues, several of these students were placed at Fecteau-Leary when they should’ve been at Lynn Classical. Several of those students didn’t graduate, which greatly affected the data reflected.
The most prominent risk factors associated with students dropping out of school are:
• Fail a core subject course (particularly in grade 9)
• Are chronically absent or tardy
• Fail to be promoted to the next grade
• Are disengaged in the classroom
• Have frequent infractions of the school code of discipline
• Are identified as low socioeconomic status
• Have extraordinary work/family economic needs
• Abuse substances
• Are older than the average student in their grade
“Part of the problem is that we can’t continue to do things the same and expect a different outcome,” said Tutwiler, who presented the same four-pronged approach slide five years ago when he was deputy superintendent. The four-pronged approach states that the four actions need to take place to prevent increasing dropout rates are: Education, Monitor/Identify, Support/Intervene, Suggest Alternatives. “You have to entertain a radical shift if you expect people to be different. I don’t want to come back here in five years and show a decline. That would be a failure on my part.”
According to Tutwiler, new thinking is already starting to occur. Part of this involves a redesign in the high school day, to accommodate students who have to work due to their family’s economic status. If a student is enrolled at Lynn Public Schools and they leave to go to work, they are counted as a dropout, and a more accessible day that allows for work hours, is currently be strategized, which will alleviate some of the declining graduation rates.
The district as a whole has a 74.8 percent graduation rate for 2019, a slight increase from 74.3 percent in 2018. Tutwiler believes that with planning and a more accessible school day, the district is capable of being in the low-80s in the future.
“The data tells a story and it tells where the needs are,” said School Committee member, Brian Castellanos. “I appreciate you setting the expectation, and to achieve equity takes cooperation, consistency and diligence. To hit those targets, we have to have an aim instead of being stuck in a position where we lose time. When we lose that, we lose children.”