On-Time High School Graduation Rate Declines

Montgomery County has best graduation rate among nation's 50 largest school districts

WASHINGTON -- On-time high school graduation rates for the D.C. area are not improving according to an Education Week study released Tuesday.

Fewer than 50 percent of high school students graduated within four years from D.C.'s public schools in 2006, according to the study. That's down almost 9 percent from 2005, the Washington Post reported. The figures didn't include public charter schools.

Virginia had a 69.2 percent graduation rate in 2006, compared with 73.4 percent in 1996. That's down 3.7 percent from 2005.

Maryland's graduation rate for 2006 was 73.5 percent -- basically unchanged from 1996, according to the Post.

The study by researchers affiliated with Education Week examined data from 1996 to 2006, the latest available federal figures. Nationally, graduation rates rose 2.8 percent to 69.2 percent, identical to Virginia's 2006 rate.

D.C. schools spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway noted the data is from the period before schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee took office in 2007 but otherwise declined to comment.

Virginia officials disputed the report. The estimates are flawed because they don't account for student mobility or ninth-grade retention, Virginia Department of Education spokesman Charles Pyle said.

The state's own available statistics show graduation rates went from 74.3 percent in 1998 to 73.8 percent in 2006. Starting in 2008, Virginia bases its calculations from ninth grade to graduation.

Montgomery County, Md., tied with the Cypress-Fairbanks, Texas, school district for the best graduation rate among the nation's 50 biggest school districts with a rate of 80.7 percent. Montgomery County has the nation's 16th largest school district while Cypress-Fairbanks ranks 35th in size.

Other local districts on that list included Fairfax County (fourth at 78.8 percent), Anne Arundel County (eight, 70.2 percent), Prince William County (13th, 65.1 percent) and Prince George's County (18th, 63.2 percent). Baltimore County ranked fifth with a graduation rate of 78.6 percent while Baltimore ranked 45th with a rate of 44.6 percent.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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