SECTION 1. Section 1B of chapter 69 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2016 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking lines 117 to 120, inclusive, and inserting in place thereof the following paragraph:-
The board shall promulgate regulations establishing the mandatory ages for school attendance, including the minimum and maximum permissible ages for school attendance, provided that each child shall be required to attend an approved kindergarten program in a public or private setting or in a community-based program licensed by the department of early education and care. Said regulations shall include mandatory attendance guidelines necessary for kindergarten completion. Said regulations shall include a process for school districts or Commonwealth charter schools to provide exemptions for advanced students to attend school beginning in first grade. Said regulations shall establish a policy to ensure that a student who begins an academic year prior to reaching the maximum permissible age for school attendance shall not be required to withdraw from school in the same academic year based solely on the grounds of having reached the maximum permissible age for attendance. Said regulations shall also address the types of alternative education programs or settings that are suitable for individuals who exceed the maximum permissible age of attendance who do not have a high school diploma or the equivalent.
SECTION 2. Subject to appropriation, the department of elementary and secondary education shall develop and administer a 3-year pilot program for dropout prevention and re-engagement programs for public high schools with annual dropout rates at or greater than 4 percent. The pilot program shall be a competitive grant process. The dropout prevention and re-engagement programs shall target high school students who have dropped out of school or are designated as being “at-risk students”, who shall be identified by high levels of truancy, below grade level performance, are expecting or parenting, or are otherwise at risk of not graduating with a diploma on time, by using at least 1 of the following methods:
(a) Alternative education, which shall mean diploma or high school equivalency programs that use evidence-based instruction and student support strategies designed to meet the needs of the target population and prepare them for postsecondary education or training. These evidence-based instruction and student support strategies may include, but are not limited to, smaller class size, competency-based learning, project-based learning, work-based learning, community service learning, success mentoring, case management, family engagement, wraparound support, restorative justice and social service referrals.
(b) Success mentors, who shall be professionals with youth development and academic support expertise whose responsibilities shall include, but not be limited to:
i. motivating students to focus on a graduation plan or an alternative option, which shall include, at a minimum, academic, career and postsecondary goals;
ii. serving as a representative for students in any disciplinary hearings or actions;
iii. providing academic as well as social-emotional student supports;
iv. assisting in the reenrollment of students who have already withdrawn from school;
v. encouraging parent and community involvement in the school setting; and
vi. identifying and addressing barriers to learning resulting from specific risk factors, including trauma, homelessness, food insecurity, disability and health issues.
All success mentors shall be provided with professional development opportunities and administrative and technical support services. Adults serving in this role shall be trained in trauma-informed practices, cultural responsiveness, and creating and sustaining healthy youth-adult relationships in a school setting. Schools may partner together to provide professional development opportunities and administrative and technical support services.
(c) Dropout outreach and re-engagement programs, which shall mean targeted outreach and transition support for students who have dropped out of school. Such programs shall, at a minimum, reach out to students, determine their academic status and personal circumstances, assist students in enrolling in a high school or high school equivalency program, provide transitional support and track students’ academic progress. Adults serving in this role shall be trained in trauma-informed practices, cultural responsiveness, and creating and sustaining healthy youth-adult relationships in a school setting.
(d) Expectant and parenting student support, which may include, but is not limited to, the development and implementation of school policies that set high academic expectations, establish procedures for maternity and paternity leave, and provide flexible scheduling; expectant and parenting student liaisons who shall work with students to develop graduation plans that include, at a minimum, academic, career and postsecondary goals and who provide follow-up support to complete the graduation plans, navigate academic requirements, engage families, overcome socio-emotional barriers and secure appropriate social services; and, annual data collection that shall include, but not be limited to, the number of parenting students in the district, any supports or interventions provided to the parenting students, and parenting student progress toward and completion of secondary school.
The department shall develop guidelines for an annual review of the progress being made by each district and local community agency participating in the pilot program. Each district and agency in the pilot program shall participate in any evaluation or accountability process implemented by or authorized by the department. The department shall prepare and submit an annual report describing and analyzing the implementation of the pilot program in all participating districts. The report shall include, but not be limited to, the number of participating school districts, schools and local community agencies; the number of students served and the type and duration of those services; the progress made by those students toward attaining a high school diploma or equivalency, which may include improvement in attendance or academic standing; and the number of students served who have attained a high school diploma or passed the high school equivalency exam. The department shall file its annual report no later than September 1 of each year by filing the same with the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate who shall forward a copy of the report to the joint committee on education. The department shall file a final report within 6 months of the conclusion of the 3 year pilot period that shall include an analysis of all relevant data so as to determine the effectiveness of the program and specific legislative recommendations, including whether the program should be expanded, maintained or discontinued, by filing the same with the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate who shall forward a copy of the report to the joint committee on education.
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