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Howard schools’ graduation rate inches up in Class of 2020; Black and Hispanic students see significant gains

The graduation rate for Howard County seniors — especially Black and Hispanic students — increased in 2020, as the school system remains near the top among Maryland jurisdictions in the metric.

Nearly 93.4% of all eligible seniors in the Class of 2020 graduated from the Howard County Public School System last spring, according to statewide graduation data released this week by the Maryland State Department of Education.

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Howard’s yearly graduation rate grew from 92.8% in 2019 to 93.38% last year. In 2018, the system’s rate was 91.9%.

The graduation rate for Black and Hispanic students in Howard improved once again in 2020. The rate for Black students increased by 2.5 points from 88.7% in 2019 to 91.2% in 2020, while Hispanic students graduated at an 80.4% clip — up from 79.3% in 2019.

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“High school graduation is one of the most critical milestones in preparing for a satisfying, successful life, and much of our success as a school system can be evaluated by our effectiveness in graduating every one of our students,” said Board of Education Chairperson Chao Wu in a news release.

Howard’s overall graduation rate is about 6.5 percentage points higher than the statewide rate of 86.8%. The state’s graduation percentage has remained relatively steady for the last three years. In 2019, 86.9% of seniors graduated within four years; in 2018, the figure was 87.1%.

The dropout rate in Howard County is correlated to its graduation rate, as the percentage of the system’s Class of 2020 students who dropped out was 3.6% — nearly 1 percentage point better than the 4.5% rate in 2019. Statewide, the dropout rate was 8.3%.

Students in the system’s “Limited English Proficiency” group saw a 10-point increase in graduation rate from 47.2% in 2019 to 57.9% in 2020. Also, students eligible for free and reduced meals — an indicator the school system uses for poverty — improved 5 points from 79.1% in 2019 to 84.3% in 2020.

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Special education students in the Class of 2020 graduated at a 73.8% rate — up from 70.5% in 2019.

“The improvements in graduation rates among several student groups that have been most impacted by achievement gaps are encouraging,” said Howard schools Superintendent Michael Martirano. “[It] reinforces the importance of initiatives around attendance, access, achievement and acceptance. … As we recover from the pandemic, we must amplify our support for students who have been most acutely impacted.”

Howard ranks eighth in the state in graduation rate, but all seven counties ahead have significantly lower enrollment than Howard’s, which was nearly 59,000 last school year. None of the systems ahead of Howard have enrollments higher than 28,000, and four of them are below 8,000.

Carroll, Calvert, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties all have graduation rates at or above 95%. (The state will not release exact data if a graduation rate is higher than 95% because of privacy rules.) Worcester, Charles and Kent counties all also had graduation rates a little higher than Howard’s.

Among the eight districts in the state with enrollments over 35,000 — most of which are in central Maryland — Howard had the best graduation rate in 2020.

Frederick County was right behind Howard at 92.4%, while Harford had seniors graduate at a 90.1% clip. Montgomery County — the largest school district in the state with an enrollment of about 165,000 — had a graduation rate of 89.2%. Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties had similar rates at 88.9% and 88.5%, respectively.

Prince George’s County and Baltimore City had the state’s two lowest graduation rates at 76.2% and 69.9%, respectively.

Most Howard schools’ rates remained steady, but Wilde Lake and Oakland Mills high schools both saw massive increases in 2020. Wilde Lake, which had the lowest 2019 graduation rate in the county, increased nearly 6 percentage points from 84.7% to 90.5%, while Oakland Mills’ rate jumped 3.5 points from 84.9% in 2019 to 88.4% in 2020.

A few schools saw small declines, including Hammond, Long Reach and Mt. Hebron. Meanwhile, seven schools — Atholton, Centennial, Glenelg, Howard, Marriotts Ridge, Reservoir and River Hill — had graduation rates at or above 95%.

Howard County graduation breakdown by school

  • Atholton: 95+% in 2019; 95+% in 2020
  • Centennial: 95+% in 2019; 95+% in 2020
  • Glenelg: 95+% in 2019; 95+% in 2020
  • Hammond: 90.73% in 2019; 88.82% in 2020
  • Homewood Center*: 37.5% in 2019; 36.59%
  • Howard: 95+% in 2019; 95+% in 2020
  • Long Reach: 86.87% in 2019; 86.71% in 2020
  • Marriotts Ridge: 95+% in 2019; 95+% in 2020
  • Mt. Hebron: 94.67% in 2019; 93.62% in 2020
  • Oakland Mills: 84.88% in 2019; 88.44% in 2020
  • Reservoir: 95+% in 2019; 95+% in 2020
  • River Hill: 94.81% in 2019; 95+% in 2020
  • Wilde Lake: 84.74% in 2019; 90.48% in 2020

*Homewood Center had an enrollment of 122 students in 2020. The center offers students who have experienced academic, social-emotional or behavioral difficulties a different academic setting with a lower student-to-teacher ratio.

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