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Boston Schools and Businesses Join To Lower Dropout Rate, Provide Jobs

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Business, higher-education, and civic leaders in Boston have joined with public-school officials in an unusual four-year agreement, called the Boston Compact, which commits the school officials to produce more and better high-school graduates.

In return, according to the terms of a 106-page draft agreement, the business and community leaders have agreed to give priority to hiring qualified high-school graduates for vacant entry-level jobs.

Aimed primarily at reducing the dropout rate and improving student achievement, the Boston Compact represents the most comprehensive and broad-based school-improvement effort in the country, according to Robert B. Schwartz, a special assistant to the president of the University of Massachusetts. Until recently, Mr. Schwartz supervised a similar pilot program initiated last year by the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges in three urban school districts.

According to Ian Forman, spokesman for the Boston Public Schools, the joint agreement maps out an overall strategy for enhancing the quality of the public schools through greater collaboration between local government agencies, businesses, and local colleges and universities.

School officials have agreed to reduce the dropout rate by 5 percent annually; to meet or exceed minimum-competency standards in reading and mathematics by 1986; and to increase by 5 percent annually the number of graduates who either go on to college or find full-time jobs.

School officials have established, moreover, 11 priority areas, ranging from basic skills to computer literacy, arts, and athletics. Programs viewed as innovative, such as the district's career-preparation program and the new districtwide curriculum, will be expanded.

The contract calls for more than $3 million in extra aid from the city to restore some school programs that in recent years were dropped because of financial problems, and to create some new programs.

Mr. Schwartz said last week that the detailed plan was developed in response to interest expressed by business and civic leaders in creating an incentive for students to take their education more seriously.

School pairings with local businesses and educational institutions occurred to some degree prior to school desegregation, Mr. Schwartz said. And when the U.S. District Court became more intimately involved in the schools, those efforts were expanded.

However, he added, college officials generally believed that the court's orders "didn't allow for the maximum use of some of the institutions. They felt they could help the schools on a systemwide basis with management and curriculum."

Some 200 businesses will be asked to participate in the hiring of qualified graduates, Mr. Forman said. In addition, the city's private-industry council has agreed to expand the "Job Collaborative," the comprehensive career-preparation program currently in three high schools.

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