Graduation rates climb with Class of 2016

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Graduation rates climb with Class of 2016

Graphic by Selina Ding.

Graphic by Selina Ding.

Graphic by Selina Ding.

Graphic by Selina Ding.

By Valerie Akinyoyenu

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Across MCPS, high school students had higher graduation rates and a smaller graduation achievement gap in 2016, with close to nine in 10 students graduating.

The four-year graduation rate for MCPS rose from 88.3 to 89.8 percent, an increase of 1.5 percentage points since 2013, according to the Maryland Department of Education. Whitman reported a graduation rate of 96.1 percent, the fourth highest in the county behind Thomas S. Wootton (98.1 percent), Poolesville (97.4 percent) and Winston Churchill (96.5 percent).

Principal Alan Goodwin attributed Whitman’s impressive graduation rates to diligent teachers, students and supportive parents—a view some students also shared.

“I would probably attribute it to how much the administration and the staff are dedicated to the kids,” senior Joe Byrne said. “Administration and teachers are often just working because it’s their job, but here I feel like there’s a real connection.”

MCPS also made notable progress toward closing the achievement gap. Since 2013, the four-year graduation rate for students receiving Free and Reduced-Price Meals increased by 4.8 percentage points, totaling 82.9 percent, while special education students reached a graduation rate of 72.0 percent—a four percentage point improvement.

Many students said they feel that a smaller achievement gap promotes a more inclusive learning environment.

I just wish all the seniors in the county the best of circumstances this year so they can all graduate in June.

— principal Alan Goodwin

“The students that have historically had lower achievement rates are able to rise to the expectation of the general student population,” sophomore Jessica Buxbaum said. “Everyone is sort of increasing together rather than just those at the top increasing on their own.”

Since 2015, the four-year graduation rate for African-American students countywide rose from 86.8 percent to 87.7 percent, and the rate for Hispanic students rose from 79.6 percent to 80.4 percent.

Students also believe a narrower graduation rate gap could lead to more racial diversity in occupations requiring diplomas or academic degrees.

“Hopefully, there’ll be a lot more diversity in professional fields and also in graduate schools where you have high academic standards,” Byrne said.

While MCPS dropout rates have generally decreased, there are still discrepancies between county schools. Although the rate at which Whitman students drop out of school without satisfying graduation requirements is less than three percent, other county high schools see around 10% of students dropping out. Moreover, six MCPS schools reported four-year graduation rates of less than 85 percent.

“I think it can come down to socioeconomics,” Goodwin said. “Some students simply don’t have the resources that other students do, and that can certainly prevent them from being able to concentrate and get the support they need to graduate on time. Also, there are sometimes very sad family stories of tragedies that occur that get in a student’s way, so there are a variety of issues that arise.”

Nonetheless, Goodwin is optimistic about higher graduation rates across all fields.

“I just wish all the seniors in the county the best of circumstances this year so they can all graduate in June,” he said.

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