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HCPSS Class of 2020 Graduation Rate Continues to Rise

February 26th, 2021

The percentage of HCPSS students who receive high school diplomas continues to rise and to outpace statewide results, according to data recently released by the Maryland State Department of Education.

At 93.4%, the graduation rate for the HCPSS Class of 2020 exceeded the Maryland average of 86.8%, and is up from 92.8% for 2019 and from 92.0% in 2018. Howard County’s rate remains the highest among the six Maryland school systems having enrollment of more than 50,000 students. The statistics reflect data for the cohort of students graduating within four years after entering high school.

HCPSS dropout patterns echo the graduation rate trends. At 3.6%, the dropout rate for the Class of 2020 shows a significant improvement compared to 4.5% in 2019 and 4.8% in 2018. The HCPSS dropout rate is well below the state average of 8.3% and compares favorably to other large Maryland school systems.

While graduation rate gaps persist among student demographic groups, several groups showed notable improvement compared to the prior year. At 91.2%, the graduation rate for Black/African American students increased by over 2 full percentage points from 88.7% in 2019. The graduation rate for Hispanic/Latinx students also showed improvement at 80.4% in 2020, up from 79.3% in 2019. Among students receiving special services, the Limited English Proficiency (LEP) group showed the greatest improvement, increasing by over 10 percentage points to 57.9%, from 47.2% last year. The rates for students eligible for free and reduced-priced meals, which is an indicator of poverty, improved by over 5 percentage points to 84.3% for 2020, compared to 79.1% last year. Graduation rates for students receiving special education services rose to 73.8%, up from 70.5% in 2019. The group designations are assigned by MSDE to track year-over-year performance.

“Our focus on equity to give all students the supports they need to be successful is driven by the goal to ensure all students are college and career ready, and the graduation rate is a key performance indicator,” said Superintendent Michael J. Martirano. “The improvements in graduation rates among several student groups that have been most impacted by achievement gaps are encouraging, and reinforce the importance of initiatives around attendance, access, achievement and acceptance, which are closely associated with student achievement. As we recover from the pandemic, we must amplify our support for students who have been most acutely impacted, and we are preparing a robust summer learning program to provide learning recovery and acceleration.”

“High school graduation is one of the most critical milestones in preparing for a satisfying, successful life, and much of our success as a school system can be evaluated by our effectiveness in graduating every one of our students,” said Board of Education Chair Chao Wu. “I am pleased that Howard County graduation rates continue to improve, which is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our outstanding staff.”

HCPSS focuses improvement efforts targeted to all of the major factors contributing to student engagement, achievement and ultimately, graduation. The school system’s Strategic Call to Action: Learning and Leading with Equity includes multiple strategies and performance measures aimed at improving achievement and learning engagement, with individualized instruction, equitable access to learning experiences, and special supports for at-risk and struggling students. The instructional program emphasizes education as a birth-through-graduation continuum and involves families and the community as essential partners in student success. System and school leaders continuously work to identify and address the root causes of equity gaps that influence achievement and graduation levels. Multiple HCPSS initiatives are targeted to overcome factors that contribute to achievement gaps, which begin in the early grades.

MSDE posts details on graduation and dropout rates for HCPSS and other systems and individual schools on its Maryland Report Card site.

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