Graduation rates at city schools below average, but rising

Graduation rates at Baltimore City schools remain well below the state average, but they're rising.

The city school system's five-year high-school graduation rate has increased for the fourth straight year, with 73.5 percent of the Class of 2013 graduating, the system announced Tuesday.

Baltimore remains far behind the statewide 87.5 percent graduation rate, but city schools have seen a 1.8 percentage-point increase from the Class of 2012 and a 6.8-point increase from 2010, when the state began recording graduation rates by five-year cohort, officials said.

Shanaysha Sauls, chairwoman of the city school board, called the trends a "real testament to the dedication of our students, families and staff."

"But what I find most gratifying is seeing the results of our efforts to engage more students and keep them coming to school until graduation day," she said in a statement.

Dropout rates in the city have dipped sharply at the same time: Just over 12 percent of the Class of 2013 dropped out, as compared to nearly 24 percent of the Class of 2010. The state's dropout rate is 9.4 percent.

City students' performance on standardized testing continued to lag behind state and national averages, according to the data, provided to the Maryland State Department of Education.

High school seniors' average SAT scores were more than 100 points below state and national averages for each of the three testing components. The average city school student scored 1126 out of 2400 in 2013-2014, slightly up from the previous year, but still significantly lower than the state and national averages.

Fewer than half the high school seniors in Baltimore public schools passed the High School Assessment. While that statistic remained nearly flat at 46 percent, another 36.5 percent of students fulfilled the requirements by completing the Bridge Plan for Academic Validation, up slightly from the previous year.

Nine percent more city students took AP exams than last year, and 4.5 percent more passed them. The increases brought the district's AP exam pass rate to 27.3 percent, less than half the state's nearly 61 percent pass rate and the national rate of 57.1 percent.

Linda Chen, the city's chief academic officer, said she was encouraged by slight improvements in SAT scores and by more students challenging themselves by taking AP exams. But the gap in results are a "call to action" to the school system, she said.

"These results tell us that we must do far more — so that, when they graduate, our students can be confident of success in whatever postsecondary option they pursue, whether that's a two- or four-year college or job training," Chen said.

City Schools CEO Gregory Thornton said the district is "on the rise."

"These results confirm the direction we're headed," Thornton said in a statement. "But it's not enough to graduate students at a higher rate. We have to work harder to ensure that students leave us not only with their diplomas, but ready to compete with peers across the state and country in college and the job market."

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6

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