Education: Spreading the Wings of an Idea

Private donors pledge millions to keep students in college

Boston's public school system is the oldest in the nation, and among the most troubled. In a city of some 570,000 people, public-school enrollment has dropped from 93,000 in 1973 to only 59,000 today, in part because of the flight of white students to private and parochial schools after court-ordered busing began in the mid-1970s. In the high schools, the dropout rate has reached 43%. Only 3,000 seniors graduate each year.

Determined to halt the downward drift of the school system, Boston area businesses have been stirred into action. In an imaginative program announced last week, nearly three dozen companies set...

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