The Frederick County Public Schools Class of 2011 has the lowest dropout rate and the third highest graduation rate among Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions, new figures show.
Only two counties in Maryland had a higher graduation rate for the Class of 2011 than Frederick County’s 91.5 percent — Carroll County with 92.8 percent and Worcester County with 92.3 percent, according to the Maryland State Department of Education.
On the other hand, Frederick County’s Class of 2011 dropout rate of 5.05 percent was the best in the state, coming just above that of Carroll County at 5.39 percent and Howard County at 5.93 percent.
In comparison, Montgomery County ranked eighth with a dropout rate of 7.41 percent, while Somerset County was last with a dropout rate of 19.91 percent, followed by Prince George’s County’s rate of 17.76 percent.
Although Frederick County Public School officials released their dropout and graduation rates earlier this month, the state education department released its figures on Oct. 31.
Historically, Frederick County has ranked among jurisdictions with the highest graduation and lowest dropout rates, but school officials were nonetheless pleased with the results this year.
“We just work really hard to get students to walk across that stage,” said Larkin Hohnke, the school system’s instructional director for high schools. “The schools do a great job working with them.”
Hohnke said the school system’s success in getting students to complete their education cannot be attributed to one specific program, but rather to a variety of initiatives that allow educators to meet each student’s unique needs.
Students can take advantage of special credit recovery programs or enroll at the Flexible Evening High School, which offers evening classes for students whose home situations prevent them from taking classes during the day, Hohnke said.
In some ways, the Frederick County Career and Technology Center also can provide a hands-on, technical education alternative for students who do not thrive in a regular academic environment, Hohnke said.
“There is no silver bullet,” he said. “You have to work with each individual student.”
Last year, Maryland changed the way it calculates dropout and graduation rates as result of a nationwide effort to equalize the way states account for their graduates.
As a result, counties throughout the state follow a set group of students from freshman year through their senior year, said Steve Hess, director for research, development and accountability for Frederick County schools.
The new system allows school systems to account for summer graduates and some special education students pursuing graduation certificates who were not factored into the old formula, Hess said. Due to the change, graduation and rates may not look as good as they used to but they are more accurate, he said.
Since the change, Frederick County’s graduation and dropout rates for all students have remained stable but there have been changes within some student subgroups.
Although Frederick County officials are pleased with an improvement in graduation and dropout rates for African-American and special education students, they are concerned about Hispanic students whose graduation rate fell from 84.5 percent in 2010 to 81.4 percent in 2011, as their dropout rate increased from 8.5 percent in 2010 to 12.1 percent.
Hess acknowledged the trend as an indicator of some of the school system’s challenges in getting all students — regardless of their backgrounds — to graduate in four years.
Most of those students are also English language learners who often struggle to adapt within the school system, according to Hess.
English language learners come to Frederick County with varying levels of education. Although many come with a high level of schooling, there are some who may enter middle or high school with only a few years of education, he said.
For those students, it is not uncommon to attend school just to learn English and leave before getting a diploma, Hess said.
The school system continues to focus on those students, especially at Frederick High School and West Frederick Middle School, which house the system’s two centers for English language learners, Hohnke said.
As with all students, the goal is to ensure that they get individual attention and help so they can become integrated into the classroom, he said.