Maryland’s graduation rate has hit a record high, with more than 86 percent of students earning diplomas within four years, according to state data released Tuesday.
State officials cheered the new milestone, noting that the rate has climbed more than four percentage points since 2010, when just fewer than 82 percent of high school students graduated on time statewide.
In the Washington region, the four-year graduation rate in Prince George’s County jumped more than two percentage points in a year to 76.6 percent, up from 74.1 percent, an increase that the county’s schools chief described as “fantastic.”
Montgomery’s rate also improved to 89.7 percent, compared with 88.3 percent a year earlier.
“We are so excited,” said Lillian M. Lowery, Maryland’s state superintendent of schools, who noted that drop-out rates have fallen as graduation rates have improved. “We have to give all of the credit to the creative work that’s going on in our districts and our schools.”
Lowery said Maryland’s 24 school districts have been using data to target individual students at risk and build learning plans that meet their needs.
Kevin Maxwell, schools chief in Prince George’s, said that school officials believe the new numbers reflect one of the largest recent increases and one of the highest rates the county has seen. Prince George’s graduation rates fell in 2011 and 2012.
Maxwell credited principals and teachers for their hard work and pointed to the success of an early warning system that allows school officials to focus on middle school and high school students who need intervention and support.
“We should be doing better, and we are beginning to do better and I’m thrilled,” he said. “I think it’s fantastic.”
Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr was similarly pleased, noting efforts to focus on forging relationships with individual students and on social-emotional learning.
“It clearly shows the hard work of the last few years has paid off,” Starr said. “I’m quite proud of our people.”
Even with gains across most student groups, statewide numbers show that achievement gaps persist, with lower graduation rates for African American and Hispanic students.
Maryland’s graduation rate for African American students is up more than four percentage points since 2010, to 80.5 percent statewide, and the rate for Hispanic students rose nearly six percentage points during that period to 77.5 percent.
Montgomery school officials also said that their analysis of graduation rates shows the gap between black and white students — and Hispanic and white students — has narrowed from 2011 to 2014.
In the county, which has the state’s largest school district, 95.2 percent of white students and 86.4 percent of black students graduate, a gap of 8.8 percentage points but a difference that is significantly lower than the gap of 12.6 percentage points in 2011. Hispanic students graduate at a rate of 80 percent, 15.2 percentage points behind white students.
Maryland uses a cohort graduation rate, which tracks students from their freshman through senior years. State officials say this year’s record rate marks a new high using that approach, which began in 2010, but also would be a record using the old approach.
As the four-year graduation rate has risen, Maryland’s drop-out rate declined from 11.9 percent in 2010 to 8.4 percent in 2014, according to state data.