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Boston schools superintendent, volunteers go door to door to reach students who dropped out amid pandemic

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius pounded the pavement Wednesday with volunteers who knocked on doors in an effort to “recover” students who dropped out during the pandemic, the Boston Private Industry Council said.

The council, which connects city youth and adults to education and employment opportunities, publicized the push via Twitter.

#HappeningNow @BostonSchools Superintendent @BCassellius joins PIC/BPS Re-Engagement Center staff, BPS staff and volunteers for doorknocking in #Roxbury & #Dorchester as part of an effort to recover #students that dropped out as a result of #COVID19,” the council tweeted, above a photo of a masked Cassellius preparing to knock on a door alongside an unidentified man, also with a face covering on.

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The council’s post caught the attention of Cassellius, who responded via Twitter, “All means all!”

A request for further comment was sent to the BPS press team Wednesday afternoon.

The Globe reported in February that two out of five high school juniors and seniors in Boston Public Schools were chronically absent from school in the fall — a sharp rise from pre-pandemic absentee rates that educators say could herald a devastating decline in the number of city students completing high school.

Chronic absenteeism has been shown to increase a student’s chance of dropping out by sevenfold, according to research from the University of Utah.

Officials told the Globe in February that they were working to re-engage students through phone calls, texts, and home visits by teachers and social workers. Each school has teams that connect families to food, housing, health, and technology resources.

But despite the challenges faced by BPS during the pandemic, the district in 2020 did record its highest four-year graduation rate, with 75.4 percent of the senior class graduating.

The four-year graduation rate rose from 73.2 percent in 2019 and has increased nearly nine percentage points since 2014, officials said in March. Fifteen high schools experienced increases in their graduation rates, and 13 experienced decreases.

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Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.