The number of students in grades 7-12 who dropped out was 14,616, or 4.8 percent, in the 2008-09 school year. That fell to 10,520, or 3.5 percent for the 2009-2010 school year, according to figures released by the state education department.

It was a 28 percent decline, the largest such decline in a decade. The department noted that some of the decline was the result of a change that keeps some high school students who attend adult education centers from being classified as dropouts. However, the department said that even without that change, the dropout rate would still have been historical at 16 percent.