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High school graduation rate improving in Maryland

MD State Deoartment of EducationMaryland students are graduating at the highest rate in recent history, according to data released last week by the Maryland State Department of Education.

Last year, Maryland moved to the cohort graduation rate, which follows a set group of students from freshman year through their senior year, better tracking their progress. The four-year cohort graduation rate jumped nearly a full percentage point between 2010 and 2011, from 81.97 to 82.82 percent, according to the State Department of Education. The five-year cohort graduation rate – those students completing their diploma in five years – improved from 84.57 to 85.51.

Four-year cohort data for 2012 will be available next year, after summer data is finalized, the state said.

“The more you learn, the more you earn and improving high school graduation rates in our State is critical to building a highly-skilled and competitive workforce,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Together, we can create a stronger economy and a better future for our children.”

State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery agreed, noting that a high school diploma represents the first step in gaining the requisite preparation for a student’s next step, be it workforce or college.

“The data offer good news, but there remain too many students who leave our classrooms prior to graduation,” Dr. Lowery said. “That must continue to change.”

Data disaggregated by student subgroup finds some mixed success. Four-year cohort graduation rates for African American, Asian, and White students improved between 2010 and 2011, with African American graduation rising the most of any subgroup – more than two full percentage points, from 74.02 percent to 76.09 percent.

At the same time, the four-year cohort graduation rate for Hispanic students fell, from 73.44 to 71.77 percent. The graduation rate for students of two or more races also fell, from 93.42 percent to 91.17 percent, but that rate ranked second only to the Asian graduation rate of 93.1 percent.

Among students receiving special services, the four-year cohort graduation rate rose nearly two points for special education students, was relatively flat for students receiving free- or reduced price meals, and fell nearly two points for English Language Learners. Many special education and English Language Learners attend school an additional year to gain skills necessary for the workforce or higher education.

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