Overall, the state’s graduation rate rose 1.5 percentage points over two years, to 83.6 percent for the class of 2012. Montgomery County saw a similar increase, of 1.3 percentage points, to 87.4 percent, and Prince George’s County slipped by 3.3 percentage points, to 72.9 percent.
Prince George’s Chief Academic Officer A. Duane Arbogast said Wednesday that he wasn’t sure how to account for the decline. “I don’t have a strong sense of why it’s not trending with the state,” he said. “I’m a little surprised at the trend data.”
The county has long languished as one of the worst-performing school districts in the state, but it has seen modest improvement in a number of academic measures in recent years. Determined to turn the system around, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III this year engineered an effort to dramatically change school governance, resetting the county school board and hiring a new, highly regarded superintendent. The slip in graduation rates reported Wednesday underscores Baker’s urgency to improve the schools.
Over the past couple of years, Arbogast said, Prince George’s has placed a greater emphasis on programming and supports to help students graduate on time. The district has opened career academies, for example, including a fire cadet program in which students can earn 17 college credits.
Educators in Prince George’s have also been more aggressive in identifying at-risk ninth-graders and designing programs to keep them on track, he said.
“I think a lot of the stuff we have put into practice, it will take time to see the return on investment,” Arbogast said.
The new data follow findings released in January by the National Center for Education Statistics estimating that 78 percent of public school students nationally earned a diploma within four years of starting high school. It was the highest rate since 1974, officials said.
Outperforming the national average were students in Maryland, with a graduation rate of 82.2 percent, and Virginia, with 81.2 percent. The analysis, for the class of 2010, showed the District’s rate was much lower — 59.9 percent — but city figures are difficult to compare with statewide numbers that also reflect suburbs and rural areas.
The new Maryland data on high school graduation was released along with numbers about the state’s drop-out rate, which fell to 10.2 percent. In Montgomery, it fell to 6.8 percent. In Prince George’s, the drop-out rate increased from 15.9 percent in 2010 to 19.5 in 2012.