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SENATE DOCKET, NO.                 FILED ON: 3/8/2012

SENATE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 2173

 


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
 

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In the Year Two Thousand Twelve

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An Act relative to dropout prevention and recovery.
 

              Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
 

              SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE

              This act may be cited as the “Dropout Prevention and Recovery Act.”

              SECTION 2.  Section 1B of chapter 69 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the word “attendance”, in line 113, the following words:- ; provided, however, that all children under the age of 18 shall be required to attend school if they have not graduated from high school. 

              SECTION 3.  Section 1I of said chapter 69, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting, after line 58, the following paragraphs:-

              All individual public schools that instruct students in kindergarten through grade 12 shall use the early warning indicator index system, or any successor data collection and tracking system, developed by the department to identify and track students at risk of not graduating on time.  Individual public schools shall collect all necessary data required for the use of the early warning indicator index system, or any successor data collection and tracking system, as determined by the department. The department shall offer school districts guidance and support on the collection, review, and use of the early warning indicator index system, or any successor data collection system, to best serve the needs of students, teachers, and school staff members. On an annual basis, the department shall compile and analyze the data submitted by individual schools and shall provide the compiled data and analysis to the applicable school.  The department shall also make aggregated, de-identified data and analysis available to the public online on an annual basis in a machine readable format.  The board may promulgate regulations relating to the implementation and use of the early warning indicator index system, or any successor data collection system, consistent with this paragraph.  Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this section, school districts may use data collection and tracking systems other than the data collection and tracking system offered by the department, subject to the approval of the department. School districts seeking to use data collection and tracking systems other than the data collection and tracking system offered by the department shall apply to the department for a waiver. The department shall grant a waiver to a school district if it determines that the data collection and tracking system of the school district meets or exceeds the criteria of the data collection and tracking system offered by the department. Any such waiver shall be contingent upon the school district agreeing to submit its data to the department. The school district and the department shall also determine who shall be responsible for compiling and analyzing the data and the system for categorizing students as at-risk, as required by section 22 of chapter 76.

              SECTION 4. Section 2 of Chapter 70 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after subparagraph (G) the following:-

              (H) “At-risk enrollment”, the number of students between the ages of sixteen and eighteen enrolled in the district who are identified as “at-risk students” according to the early warning indicator index system, or any successor data collection and tracking system, as set forth in section 1I of chapter 69

              SECTION 5. Section 1C of chapter 71 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting at the end thereof the following paragraph:-

              Each school shall conduct, in cooperation with parents and teachers on the school advisory council, at least one workshop annually for parents and teachers on effective strategies for involving parents in the education of their child and parental involvement in the education of at-risk students. Each school district shall provide a model or guidance to its schools on carrying out the workshops, including, but not limited to, guidance on topics to be covered, outside parties who may be available to assist in the workshops, and strategies to involve parents with economic or linguistic barriers to full participation in the school community.

              SECTION 6. Section 37H of chapter 71 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out the first sentence in the third paragraph and inserting in place thereof the following sentence:- In each school building containing any of the grades six to twelve, inclusive, the principal, in consultation with the school council, shall prepare and distribute to each student in grades six to twelve, inclusive, a student handbook setting forth the rules pertaining to the conduct of students.

              SECTION 7. Said section 37H, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by striking out paragraph (e) and inserting in place thereof the following sentences:- Any school district that expels a student under the provisions of this section shall continue to provide educational services to the student during the period of expulsion, as provided in section 21 of chapter 76. If the student moves to another district during the period of expulsion, the new district of residence shall either admit the student to its schools or provide educational services to the student under an education service plan, as provided in section 21 of chapter 76.

              SECTION 8. Section 37H ½ of Chapter 71 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out the last paragraph and inserting in place thereof the following sentences:- Any school district that expels a student under the provisions of this section shall continue to provide educational services to the student during the period of expulsion, as provided in section 21 of chapter 76. If the student moves to another district during the period of expulsion, the new district of residence shall either admit the student to its schools or provide educational services to the student under an education service plan, as provided in section 21 of chapter 76.

              SECTION 9. Chapter 71 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after section 37H ½ the following section:-

              Section 37H ¾. Other suspensions and expulsions.

              This section regulates the suspension and expulsion of students enrolled in a public school in the commonwealth who are not charged with a violation of paragraph (a) or (b) of Section 37H or with a felony in accordance with Section 37H ½.

              (1) For any suspension or expulsion under this section, the principal or headmaster of a school in which the student is enrolled, or his or her designee, shall provide, to the student and to the parent or guardian of the student, a written notification of the charges and the reasons for the suspension or expulsion in English and in the primary language of the home. The student shall receive the written notification and shall have the opportunity to meet with the principal or headmaster, or his or her designee, to discuss the charges and reasons for suspension or expulsion prior to the suspension or expulsion taking effect. The principal or headmaster, or his or her designee, shall also make reasonable efforts to include the parent or guardian of the student in the meeting. If a decision is made to suspend or expel the student after the meeting, the principal or headmaster, or his or her designee, shall update the notification of the reasons for the suspension or expulsion to reflect the meeting with the student. If a student has been suspended or expelled from school for more than 10 school days for a single infraction or for more than 10 school days cumulatively for multiple infractions in any school year, the student and the parent or guardian of the student shall also receive, at the time of the suspension or expulsion decision, written notification of a right to appeal and the process for appealing the suspension or expulsion in English and in the primary language of the home; provided, however, that the suspension or expulsion shall remain in effect prior to any appeal hearing. The principal or headmaster shall notify the superintendent in writing, including, but not limited to, by electronic means, of any out-of-school suspension imposed on a student enrolled in kindergarten through grade 3 prior to such suspension taking effect. Such notification shall describe the student’s alleged misconduct and the reasons for suspending the student out-of-school. For the purposes of this section, the term “out-of-school suspension” shall mean a disciplinary action imposed by school officials to remove a student from participation in school activities for 1 day or more.

              A student who has been suspended or expelled from school for more than 10 school days for a single infraction or for more than 10 school days cumulatively for multiple infractions in any school year shall have the right to appeal the suspension or expulsion to the superintendent.  The student or his or her parent or guardian shall notify the superintendent in writing of a request for an appeal no later than 5 calendar days following the effective date of the suspension or expulsion; provided that a student and his or her parent or guardian may request, and if so requested, shall be granted an extension of up to 7 calendar days. The superintendent or his or her designee shall hold a hearing with the student and his or her parent or guardian within 3 calendar days of the student’s request for an appeal; provided that a student or his or her parent or guardian may request and, if so requested, shall be granted an extension of up to 7 calendar days; provided, further, that the superintendent, or his or her designee, may proceed with a hearing without a parent or guardian if the superintendent, or his or her designee, makes a good faith effort to include the parent or guardian.  At the hearing, the student shall have the right to present oral and written testimony, cross-examine witnesses, and shall have the right to counsel. The superintendent shall render a decision on the appeal in writing within 5 calendar days of the hearing. Such decision shall be the final decision of the city, town or regional school district with regard to the suspension or expulsion. 

              (2) Under this section, no student shall be suspended or expelled from a school or school district for a time period that exceeds 180 school days, beginning the first day the student is removed from an assigned school building.

              (3) Any principal, headmaster, superintendent, or or other person acting as a decision-maker at a student meeting or hearing, when deciding the consequences for the student, shall exercise discretion; consider ways to re-engage the student in the learning process; and avoid using expulsion as a consequence until other remedies and consequences have been employed. 

              (4) Districts shall report to the department of elementary and secondary education the specific reasons for all suspensions and expulsions, regardless of duration or type.  The department of elementary and secondary education shall use its existing data collection tools to obtain this information from districts, and shall modify those tools, as necessary, to obtain the information.  On an annual basis, the department of elementary and secondary education shall make district-level de-identified data and analysis, including the total number of days each student is excluded during the school year, available to the public online in a machine readable format.

              SECTION 10.  Section 1 of chapter 76 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in lines 2 to 13, inclusive, the words “by the board of education, except a child between fourteen and sixteen who meets the requirements for the completion of the sixth grade of the public school as established by said board and who holds a permit for employment in private domestic service or service on a farm, under section eighty-six of chapter one hundred and forty-nine, and is regularly employed there under for at least six hours per day, or a child between fourteen and sixteen who meets said requirements and has the written permission of the superintendent of schools of the town where he resides to engage in non-wage-earning employment at home, or a child over fourteen who holds a permit for employment in a cooperating employment, as provided in said section eighty-six,”.

              SECTION 11.  Said section 1, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by striking out, in line 14, the word “said” and inserting in place thereof the word:- his.

              SECTION 12.  Said section 1, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by inserting, at the end of the third paragraph, the following new words:-

              ; provided that no student, regardless of age, shall face criminal liability or be subject to criminal penalties for failure to attend school through the mandatory age for school attendance

              SECTION 13. Said section 1, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by striking out the fourth paragraph.

              SECTION 14.  Said chapter 76 is hereby further amended by adding after section 1A the following new section:-

              Section 1B. The school committee of each city, town or regional school district shall have a pupil absence notification program in each of its schools. The program shall be designed to ensure that each school notifies a parent or guardian of his child’s absence if the school has not received notification of the absence from the parent or guardian within three days of said absence.

              Each school committee shall have a policy of notifying the parent or guardian of a student who has at least 5 days in which he or she has missed 2 or more periods unexcused  in a school year or who has missed 5 or more school days unexcused in a school year, whichever is less. The notification policy shall require that the school principal or his designee make a reasonable effort to meet with the parent or guardian of a student who has 5 or more unexcused absences to develop action steps for student attendance. The action steps shall be developed jointly and agreed upon by the school principal or his designee, the student, and the student’s parent or guardian, and with input from other relevant school personnel and officials from relevant public safety, health and human service, housing and nonprofit agencies.

              SECTION 15.  Section 18 of said chapter 76, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out the first paragraph and inserting in place thereof the following new paragraphs:-

              No student who has not graduated from high school shall be considered to have permanently left public school unless an administrator of the school which such student last attended has sent notice within a period of 5 days from the student’s tenth consecutive absence to the student and the parent or guardian of such student in both the primary language of such parent or guardian, to the extent practicable, and English. The notice shall initially offer at least two dates and times for an exit interview between the superintendent or his designee and the student and his parent or guardian to occur prior to the student permanently leaving school and shall include contact information for scheduling the interview. The notice shall indicate that the parties shall agree upon a date and time for any such interview and hold any such interview within 10 days after the sending of the notice. The time for said exit interview may be extended at the request of the parent or guardian, provided no extension shall be for longer than 14 days. The superintendent, or his or her designee, may proceed with any such interview without a parent or guardian if the superintendent, or his or her designee, makes a good faith effort to include the parent or guardian. The exit interview shall be for the purpose of discussing the reasons for the student permanently leaving school and to consider alternative education or other placements.

              The superintendent or his designee shall convene a team of school personnel, such as the principal, guidance counselor, teachers, attendance officer and other relevant school staff, to participate in the exit interview with the student and his parent or guardian. During the exit interview, the student shall be given information about the detrimental effects of early withdrawal from school, the benefits of earning a high school diploma and the alternative education programs and services available to the student.

              The department of elementary and secondary education shall: (i) publish a model protocol for conducting exit interviews with students and parents and guardians of students; and (ii) compile and maintain a list of research and information relative to the consequences of dropping out, the benefits of earning a high school diploma and a list of alternative education resources and programs available to the student, in addition to those that the district may provide, that schools shall present at the exit interview.

              SECTION 16.  Said section 18, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by striking out, in line 17, the word “sixteen” and inserting in place thereof the following word:- eighteen.

              SECTION 17.  Said chapter 76, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by inserting after section 20 the following sections:-

              Section 21. Principals shall ensure that students who are suspended from school for 10 or fewer consecutive days, whether in or out of school, shall have an opportunity to make academic progress during the period of their suspension, to make up assignments and earn credits missed, including, but not limited to, homework, quizzes, exams, papers, and projects missed. Principals shall develop a school-wide education service plan for all students who are expelled or suspended from school for more than 10 consecutive school days, whether in or out of school. Principals shall ensure these students have an opportunity to make academic progress during the period of their suspension or expulsion, to make up assignments and earn credits missed, including, but not limited to, homework, quizzes exams, papers, and projects missed. Education service plans may include, but are not limited to, tutoring, alternative placement, Saturday school, and online or distance learning. In developing the education service plan, principals may seek the cooperation or input of relevant public safety, health and human service, housing and nonprofit agencies, and other service providers. Any school or school district that expels a student or suspends a student for more than 10 consecutive school days shall provide the student and his or her parent or guardian with a list of alternative educational services. Upon selection of an alternative educational service by the student and his or her parent or guardian, the school or school district shall facilitate and verify enrollment in said service.  Students exempt from attending school under section 1 of chapter 76 shall not be subject to this provision.

              Instructional costs associated with implementing an education service plan pursuant to this section shall be eligible for reimbursement under section 5A of chapter 71B, subject to appropriation. Said reimbursements shall be in addition to amounts distributed pursuant to chapter 70 and shall not be included in the calculation of base aid, as defined in said chapter 70, for any subsequent fiscal year. Instructional costs eligible for reimbursement shall include only those costs directly attributable to providing alternative educational services under an education service plan, such as salary of educational personnel, salary of related services personnel, costs for specialized books, materials, or equipment, tuition costs, if the student is receiving services from other than the local public school, consultant costs if directly attributable to the student’s instructional program, and instructional costs of extended day or year services if such services are a part of the education service plan. Such costs shall be prorated as appropriate to reflect group activities or costs for part time services. Instructional costs shall not include transportation costs, administrative or overhead costs, the costs of adapting classrooms or materials that are used by more than one student, the costs of fringe benefits of personnel employed by the school district, nor the costs associated with the development of the education service plan, or service coordination for the student. Instructional costs associated with an education service plan shall be reported to and approved by the department, and shall be reimbursed according to the formula and procedures set forth in section 5A of chapter 71B.

              Section 22. Massachusetts Graduation Coach Initiative.

              As used in this section, the following term shall have the following meaning:

              “Students-at-risk of dropping out of school” are any students deemed borderline, high risk, or very high risk, or students that fall under corresponding risk levels in any successor system, according to the early warning indicator index system used by the department of elementary and secondary education, or any successor data collection and tracking system, as set forth in section 1I of chapter 69. For purposes of this act, “students at-risk of dropping out of school” may also be referred to as “at-risk students.”

              The Massachusetts graduation coach initiative shall match at-risk students in grades 7 through 12 who attend schools that qualify for a graduation coach under this section with graduation coaches who will monitor the students’ attendance and provide advice and intervention services, or connection to intervention services, such as, but not limited to, peer tutoring, credit recovery, and academic remediation. Graduation coaches shall leverage the resources and assistance of community organizations working successfully in the field of dropout intervention and recovery. Graduation coaches shall ensure successful transition of at-risk students from middle school to high school, connecting these students with the students’ new school. 

              The department of elementary and secondary education shall provide resources for districts to hire and place graduation coaches in every public middle school and high school that, for a high school, has a total annual dropout rate of 10% or more and that, for grades 7 and 8, has a total annual incidence of at-risk students of 10% or more in those grades; provided, however, that a district shall not receive resources for a school with fewer than 20 students who fall into the foregoing categories. The department of elementary and secondary education shall promulgate regulations that set forth an appropriate trigger for graduation coach resources for schools with disproportionate dropout rates and incidences of at-risk students for demographic subgroups. The department of elementary and secondary education shall also promulgate regulations as to an appropriate coach to student ratio, by which to guide placement of coaches in the respective schools. Districts that share graduation coaches shall develop an interagency services agreement that sets forth such issues as hiring, oversight and supervision, and payment.  The department of elementary and secondary education shall promulgate regulations on what the agreement shall cover.  Nothing herein shall prohibit a school district or districts from partnering with an external nonprofit agency with experience and proven results in youth development to staff a graduation coach in a qualifying school or schools. The department of elementary and secondary may establish regulations setting forth criteria for qualifying agencies.

              The department of elementary and secondary education shall establish employment qualifications and program design criteria with which districts must comply as a condition of receiving funding through the Massachusetts graduation coach initiative; provided that graduation coaches shall meet employment qualifications equal to or greater than minimum state employment qualifications and shall hold at least a four year bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Candidates for employment as a graduation coach also shall have some past experience working effectively with youth. Districts that meet these conditions shall have the authority to hire and place graduation coaches in qualifying schools. The department of elementary and secondary education may provide a standardized orientation to graduation coaches. The responsibilities of graduation coaches shall include, but not be limited to, the following: identifying at-risk students; implementing school wide support interventions; motivating students to focus on a graduation plan; negotiating extra help for at-risk students; providing academic advice and student support; developing effective transition programs to aid at-risk students moving between schools; connecting parents of at-risk students with appropriate school and community resources; connecting at-risk students with school and community resources;  encouraging parent and community involvement; assisting in the reenrollment of students who recently left school; and identifying and addressing barriers to learning resulting from specific risk factors. Districts with high numbers of dropouts may choose to focus the responsibilities of a coach on outreach and re-engagement of dropouts and students with five or more absences unexcused.

              Each school district shall provide the graduation coach with professional development opportunities and administrative and technical support in concert with existing district professional development and administrative and technical support services for district staff. School districts may partner together to provide professional development opportunities and administrative and technical support services. The professional development and support services shall include guidance for graduation coaches on how to best integrate their work with the efforts of school counselors and school social workers in the schools and districts in which they are placed so as to achieve efficient and effective provision of services and to avoid duplication of work. School districts and school administrators shall consider existing needs and programs when determining the placement of individual coaches. The department of elementary and secondary education may coordinate and lead annual regional meetings to allow graduation coaches to network and share best practices, strategies, and problem solving methods.

              The graduation coach shall develop and implement an individualized family engagement plan for at-risk students to identify and support practical strategies for strong family involvement in the student’s academic life and in the student’s school community. The graduation coach shall convene and develop the plan jointly with the student; his or her parent or guardian or any other family member or caretaker involved in the student’s academic life; and a representative of the student’s school, which may include, but not be limited to, a general education teacher serving the student, a special education teacher serving the student, or a member of the school’s administrative team. The individualized family engagement plan shall describe each of the aforementioned parties’ responsibilities and expectations for supporting the student’s educational progress and shall be signed by the parties. The individualized family engagement plan may be developed in conjunction with or as part of an individual student success plan or an individualized education plan; provided, however, that the individualized family engagement plan, as required under this section, must be clearly and separately delineated.

              SECTION 18. The department of elementary and secondary education shall track and study the impact on levels of parent engagement and academic success of students in an employer-sponsored pilot program that provides paid leave for employees to participate in academic activities.  Any employer in the Commonwealth shall be eligible for the pilot program and, if interested, shall inform the department of elementary and secondary education of its intent to participate in the pilot program. The department shall commence said pilot program upon the availability of a statistically significant number of employer and potential employee participants.  Prior to implementation of a program, the department of elementary and secondary education and the employer shall enter into an agreement to outline the terms of the program and the department’s study.  The agreement shall specify the amount of time, on an annualized basis, to be offered to employees and any limitations or conditions on the use of time, including, but not limited to, requirements for notice, limitations in cases of emergency, and rules for evidence of attendance at an academic activity.  The agreement shall also specify the length of time that the program shall run and shall outline the data reporting and collection responsibilities of each party.  The agreement shall include a statement that it shall be unlawful for an employer to discharge or discriminate against an employee for taking leave under the program.  The department of elementary and secondary education shall report the results and findings of the study to the clerks of the House of Representatives and the Senate within six months of completion of the study or at the conclusion of the second year of the study, whichever is less, who shall convey the results and findings to the chairs of the joint committee on education and the chairs of the joint committee on labor and workforce development.

              SECTION 19.  Chapter 741 of the Acts of 1965 is hereby repealed.

              SECTION 20.  Section 2 shall be effective as of September 1, 2014. From September 1, 2013 until August 31, 2014, all children under the age of 17 shall be required to attend school if they have not graduated from high school.

              SECTION 21.  Section 3 shall apply commencing the academic school year beginning 2012.

              SECTION 22.  In Section 15, proposed section 22 of chapter 76 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, shall apply commencing the academic school year beginning 2013.

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