Montgomery County public schools officials brag about its high school graduation rates that are higher than the state average, but that is only partially true, according to a new state report posted online last month.
MCPS officials boasted that the county high school graduation rate for the adjusted 4-year cohort was 89.5 percent, a decrease of 0.3 percentage points from 2016, but which was higher than the state average.
However, nine of Montgomery County’s 25 high schools’ graduation rates dipped below the state graduation rate, which officials measure in terms of the “four-year cohort.”
Maryland Education Department officials, who authored the January report known as a “report card,” measured the number of students in the same grade, known as a cohort, as that class progresses through high school, and then divided the number of graduates by the number of students in the class.
“There is still much work to be done to ensure all of our students graduate on time ready for college and the workforce,” County Superintendent of Schools Jack Smith said.
Not only did some schools not beat the state graduation rate– they also graduated at times with hundreds fewer students than the top performing schools in the county. Montgomery County public high school graduation rates had a 20.51-percent gap or difference between the highest and lowest graduation rates.
Smith said he was particularly concerned about how many students who learn English as a second language, but are not fluent in it, graduate high school.
Between 2014 and 2017, state education officials said, the graduation rate for the four-year cohort for students of limited English proficiency in the County decreased from 54.01 percent to 40.70 percent (excludes students who may graduate after completing a fifth year of high school).
It dropped to less than half of the countywide graduation rate.
Montgomery County Public Schools officials said the number of high school students with limited English proficiency had increased by 300 percent between 2014 and 2017.
State data indicates limited English proficiency students in the four-year cohort increased from 280 students in 2014 to a four-year cohort of 688 students in 2017.
“We are concerned about the decline in graduation rates for LEP students,” Smith said in a statement. “We are committed to making investments in the resources an [sic] opportunities theses students need to meet their full potential.”
MCPS central office staff is evaluating factors in graduation rates for students of limited English proficiency including the duration of time the students were enrolled in MCPS, the level of English Speakers of Other Languages services the students receive when the students drop out and the students’ ages, MCPS officials said in a news release.
Meanwhile, 14 high schools saw increased four-year cohort graduation rates during the last three years. The largest increase was a 3-percentage point increase in the adjusted four-year cohort of Seneca Valley High School, followed by Springbrook HS with a 2.7 percentage point increase, Richard Montgomery HS with a 2.4 percentage point increase and Northwest HS with a 2.2 percentage point increase.
“MCPS continues to graduate students prepared for college and career at a high rate and make strides toward closing the achievement gap,” MCPS Board of Education member Rebecca Smondrowski said. “However, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure all students achieve at the highest levels. Specifically, we must continue to implement strategies and provide resources to better support students in special groups [special populations] and new to MCPS.”
Six high schools with the best four-year cohort graduation rates topped 95 percent graduating in 2017; most of the schools had been maintaining these graduation rates for the last seven years. Walt Whitman High School had the highest percentage of student four-year cohorts receive high school diplomas, graduating 97.9 percent of the four-year cohort in 2017. Thomas S. Wootton High School graduated 97.8 percent of the four-year cohort in 2017, followed by Churchill, 96.4 percent; Poolesville, 96.2 percent; Walter Johnson 95.8 percent and Quince Orchard, 95.6 percent.
What MCPS officials did not mention was a deficit of about 19 percentage points separates the school with the lowest adjusted four-year cohort graduation rate and the highest adjusted four-year cohort graduation rate.
Wheaton High School’s four-year cohort graduation rate was 77.39 percent, while Walt Whitman’s four-year cohort graduation rate was 97.9 percent.
“We are proud of the progress we’ve made in closing gaps and maintaining one of the highest graduation rates in the state,” said Smith [sic]. “We will continue to equip our school leaders with the resources and tools they need to identify areas for improvement and truly meet the individual needs of every student.”
MCPS high school graduation rates, highest to lowest:
1. Walt Whitman
2. Winston Churchill
3. Walter Johnson
5. Thomas S. Wootton
6. Quince Orchard
7. Northwest high school
8. Bethesda-Chevy Chase
9. Damascus high
10. Sherwood high
11. Richard Montgomery
13. Paint Branch
14. James H. Blake
15. Col. Zadok Magruder
17. Seneca Valley
18. Montgomery Blair
20. Watkins Mill
21. John F. Kennedy
22. Albert Einstein