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Area schools part of dip in state’s dropout rates

State officials say the dropout rate for Massachusetts high school students fell to 2.5 percent during the 2011-2012 school year, the lowest it’s been in decades.

And a handful of public school districts south of Boston — including Canton, Cohasset, Walpole, and Norfolk County Agricultural High School — did not have a single student quit last year, according to the latest data from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

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Several other area high schools reported dropout rates of close to zero, including Hanover, Sharon, South Shore Charter Public School in Norwell, and Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School in Rochester. Those schools each reported losing only one student all year.

The latest numbers also show that the Rockland school system continues to make progress in cutting its dropout rate. Six Rockland students dropped out during the 2011-2012 school year, and the high school’s dropout rate declined to 1 percent — a significant improvement from 2009-2010, when 45 students quit.

John Retchless, superintendent for the Rockland Public Schools, called the turnaround — Rockland’s dropout rate has now improved for the second year in a row — “a remarkable achievement for us.”

“We’re thrilled, obviously,” he said. “When you see a reduction in your dropout rate in one year, it’s a snapshot.” When that rate declines year after year, he said, “I think it’s an indication that what you put into place is working.”

Rockland school officials have been focusing on identifying at-risk students in the eighth grade, and making sure they get the help they need. The district has also hired social workers to work with students in the schools, Retchless said.

‘We’re thrilled, obviously. . . . I think it’s an indication that what you putinto place is working.’

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“We’re looking at making Rockland an emotional safe haven for kids,” he said.

Several other districts did not fare as well in retaining their students during the 2011-2012 school year.

The public school systems with the highest dropout rates in this area include Wareham with 6.3 percent; Holbrook, 5.8 percent; Randolph, 4.6 percent; and Brockton, 4.4 percent.

Foxborough Regional Charter School, which had maintained a zero dropout rate over the past five years, saw 11 of its students drop out last year, so its dropout rate increased to 4.8 percent — the highest it’s been in a decade.

The schools with the highest dropout rates in this region were Wareham Cooperative Junior/Senior High School at 43.4 percent; Brockton Champion High School, 33.9 percent; B.B. Russell Alternative School in Brockton, 27.6 percent; and West Wareham Academy, 25 percent.

Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.

Correction: Because of incorrect information provided by the state, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of students who dropped out of Foxborough Regional Charter School last year. According to Mark F. Logan, the school’s executive director, one student dropped out last year, so the school’s dropout rate was 0.4 percent for the 2011-2012 school year.

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