City graduation rate rises, but still lowest in the state

August 24, 2006|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,sun reporter

The graduation rate in Baltimore rose slightly last year from 58.99 to 60.63 percent, giving the city the highest graduation rate in at least the past decade.

The latest graduation statistics released this week by the Maryland State Department of Education show the city's rate, while improving, is still below other school systems. Somerset County had the second-worst rate at 73 percent.

Baltimore County's graduation rate fell 2 percentage points to 82.5. Statewide, 85.4 percent of students got a diploma within four years, up from 84.8 percent. Frederick County posted the highest rate in the state with 96.4 percent.

Ben Feldman, who is in charge of testing for city schools, said the city's rate is brought down significantly by its three alternative high schools, Harbor City, Eager Street and Francis M. Wood. Those schools are alternative programs for those with behavioral or academic difficulties.

For instance, the Eager Street school is for teenagers who are in jail.

The graduation rate for the city without those three schools is 79.7 percent. "What I am saying is that the actual performance of our high schools is actually so much better than people give us credit for," Feldman said.

Most school systems, however, have their graduation rates brought down by students from alternative high schools or programs.

The state also released its annual list of dropout rates. Statewide, the dropout rate is 3.7 percent; in Baltimore, it declined slightly to 10.52 percent.

Graduation and dropout rates have proved unreliable in the past, largely because some students who leave their schools are counted as dropouts when they may have transferred to a school in another county or state.

Last year, nearly every state in the nation committed to developing a tracking system that would give each student a separate number, like a Social Security number.

Maryland hopes to begin such a system next year.

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