This from the Boston Globe by Russell Contreras:
A new proposal targeting Massachusetts' high school dropout rate would track students as early as third grade for warning signs and would require businesses to give parents up to 24 hours a year in paid leave for student academic needs.

Under a bill introduced this month by Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, D-Boston, the state would expand its "Early Warning Indicator Index" -- which identifies students as early as eighth grade who are at risk of dropping out -- and create a pilot program that would follow students in third grade.

The bill would also allow parents to take paid time off to handle their child's academic needs, such as attending parent-teacher conferences, and limit the use of school suspensions for non-felonious acts.

Chang-Diaz said such moves are needed to tackle the state's four-year high school dropout rate, which is hovering around 9 percent, according to 2008-2009 data, the latest state numbers available.

"Massachusetts is known for having such a strong public school system," said Chang-Diaz, who is a former Lynn teacher. "But not all of our students are benefiting from it. We need to change that."

The state's annual high school dropout rate is 2.9 percent. That rate reflects one year of data across ninth through 12th grade and not a "cohort," or the same group of students followed over four years.

Chang-Diaz said if rates continue without substantial changes, Massachusetts will lose money in the future because the state's economy will be forced to absorb a population that won't be prepared for growing sectors that need educated workers.

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