MCPS Graduation Rate Increases, Dropout Rate Improves

October 30, 2013
The four-year graduation rate for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has risen to 87.4 percent, according to data released by the Maryland State Department of Education on Wednesday (October 30). The MCPS graduation rate is 3.8 percentage points higher than the rate for the state of Maryland and rose 0.6 percentage points compared with last year. Over the past two years, the MCPS graduation rate has increased by 1.3 percentage points.

“I’m very pleased that we continue to see steady growth in our graduation rate,” Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr said. “Our staff is doing an outstanding job preparing our students to graduate on time and be ready for college and the workplace.”

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) released on Wednesday the four-year and five-year graduation rate calculations for all districts and schools in the state of Maryland. The most recent data is for graduates who entered high school during the 2008-2009 school year (the Class of 2012). The MCPS five-year graduation rate is 90.2 percent—up 0.8 percentage points from the previous year and nearly 4 points higher than the state rate (86.3 percent).

The MCPS dropout rate for the Class of 2012 fell to 6.8 percent and is significantly lower than the state rate of 10.2 percent.

The four-year graduation rate has improved for all major student subgroups in MCPS. The MCPS graduation rate for African American students rose to 82.3 percent, which is a two-year increase of 4.2 percentage points. Over the last two years, the graduation rate for MCPS Hispanic students has increased by 2.4 points, to 76.7 percent.

“More of our African American and Hispanic students are graduating on time. While there are still significant gaps in performance, it is encouraging to see that those gaps have narrowed in the past couple of years,” Dr. Starr said. “We must focus on meeting the individual needs of our students if we are going to continue to see this type of progress in the years to come.”

The gap in graduation rate between African American and Caucasian students has narrowed 3.9 percentage points over the past two years. The gap between Hispanic and Caucasian students has narrowed by 2.1 percentage points.

The graduation rate for MCPS students that receive special education services and free and reduced-price meals (FARMS) has also shown significant progress over the past two years. For special education students, the graduation rate is 62.8 percent, up 3.3 points in two years. For students receiving FARMS, the graduation rate is 76.6 percent, up 3.2 points in two years.

Twelve of the school system’s 25 high schools saw a one-year increase in the graduation rate, and 17 saw a two-year increase. Among the highlights of school performance:

- The MCPS high schools with the biggest one-year gain in graduation rate are Walter Johnson (up 5.0 percentage points), Rockville (2.6 points), Col. Zadok Magruder (2.4 points), Seneca Valley (2.0 points), and Wheaton (2.0 points)
- The MCPS high schools with the biggest two-year gain in graduation rate are Watkins Mill (up 6.5 percentage points), Northwood (5.3 points), Walter Johnson (4.8 points), Rockville (3.7 points), and Montgomery Blair (2.8 points)
- The MCPS high schools with the highest graduation rates are Thomas S. Wootton (98.7 percent), Poolesville (97.8), Winston Churchill (97.2), Walter Johnson (96.7), and Walt Whitman (95.1).

School Progress Index

MSDE also released the School Progress Index (SPI) for high schools on Wednesday.  (The index for elementary and middle schools and had been previously released.)
The SPI is a component of Maryland’s revised accountability system that was established when the state received a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act. The SPI uses a formula, based mostly on state test scores, to determine how schools are progressing toward academic targets.

While MCPS performed fairly well on the SPI, overall, Dr. Starr reiterated his concern about building an accountability system on tests that are being phased out.

MCPS and other Maryland districts are revising their curriculum in mathematics and English language arts to align with the Common Core State Standards, a set of expectations for what students need to know and be able to do that has been adopted by more than 40 states. At the same time, a new assessment aligned to the Common Core is being developed by a consortium of states and will be implemented in the coming years.

However, the current state assessments—the MSA and HSA—have not changed and, in some instances, are not aligned with what students are learning in the classroom. However, they are still being given and used to calculate the SPI.

“It’s difficult to put too much credence in a measure that is based, in great part, on lame duck tests,” Dr. Starr said. “It is my hope that when the new, Common Core-aligned assessments are fully implemented, we can build a more meaningful accountability system that is structured around the skills and knowledge our students need for success in the 21
st century.”

For MCPS results and an explanation of how the SPI is calculated, visit
the Maryland Report Card website.

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