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High school graduation rates increase across the state

Graduation rates increased slightly across Maryland last year, state education officials said Tuesday.

Rates for African-American students also increased, although they still lag behind their white and Asian counterparts in most jurisdictions, according to a report released by the Maryland State Department of Education.

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The rate for African-American students statewide increased by 1.8 percentage points, to 84.1 percent. The rate for white students was 92.4 percent, up four-tenths of a percentage point.

Baltimore County officials noted that the gap there has disappeared — African-American students had an 89.7 percent graduation rate and the rate for white students was 89.5 percent.

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"Our progress in raising the graduation rate reflects our commitment to equity and opportunity for all students," Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance said.

Dance credited addressing individual student needs by using options such as computer classes and summer school programs to help students earn credits needed to graduate.

County schools administrators said 18 of 24 high schools have seen graduation rate gains since 2013. The highest increase was at Woodlawn High School, which had an 89.2 percent graduation rate in 2016.

Graduation rates improved statewide for the class of 2016 across 10 jurisdictions, including by 1.13 percentage points in Baltimore and 1.08 points in Anne Arundel County, according to the data.

The rates fell slightly in several Baltimore suburbs. Harford County's graduation rate dipped to 89.09 percent, down 0.85 of a point. Howard County decreased by roughly a quarter of a point to 93.21 percent, and Carroll dropped about three-quarters of a point to 95.13 percent.

Prince George's, Montgomery, Calvert, Cecil, Queen Anne's, Caroline and Dorchester counties also saw gains. Cecil County showed the largest gain, rising about 2.9 percentage points.

The numbers also showed a record low state dropout rate of 8 percent.

"The new data is great news for Maryland, as the high school diploma is the important first step of a successful journey," Karen Salmon, the state superintendent of schools, said in a statement. "We continue to strengthen our standards and our classrooms to better prepare each student for employment or additional education."

Rates also improved among students who receive free and reduced meals, and increased by 3 percentage points among special-education students. They declined by nearly 2 points, to 47.5 percent, among students with limited English proficiency.

The graduation rate for Hispanic students dipped by 0.34 percentage points last year, but state education officials said that number has increased by nearly 5 percentage points since 2011, from 71.7 percent to 76.5 percent.

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