Fairfax surpasses Montgomery as large district with best graduation rate -- Gazette.Net


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Montgomery County Public Schools no longer has the highest graduation rate of the 50 largest school districts in the United States.

Fairfax County Public Schools now tops the list with a graduation rate of 85 percent, while Montgomery and Baltimore counties are tied for second with an 84 percent graduation rate, according to the 2013 Diploma Counts report by Education Week released Thursday.

The report compares the latest graduation data available — 2010 — from high schools nationwide, as reported by the federal government in the National Center for Education Statistics.

Montgomery County has topped the list for the last four years.

Montgomery’s Superintendent Joshua P. Starr wrote in a press release that it is disappointing that the school system is no longer first on the list, but he is pleased it is among the nation’s highest performing large districts.

He said the data will be used to “inform conversations about how we serve and support students and improve teaching and learning.”

For Fairfax County Public Schools, the report is a reflection of the support and direction teachers provide students, according to Fairfax County School Board chairman Ilryong Moon.

Fairfax has has remained committed to student achievement despite challenges such as growing enrollment, changing educational expectations and diminishing resources, Moon wrote in a statement.

“While I am grateful to know that FCPS has the highest graduation rate, we still have more work to do and we can do better,” Moon wrote.

Out of the 50 largest districts in the U.S., Montgomery and Anne Arundel county’s public school systems have the highest “expected” graduation rate, at 80 percent, according to the new report.

Fairfax’s expected rate is 76 percent; Baltimore’s is 74 percent.

The expected rate is calculated by Education Week using ten variables that have been found to influence graduation rates, such as the size of the district and its schools, socioeconomic data, per-pupil funding and student-teacher ratio, according to Christopher Swanson, vice president of Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit branch of Education Week.

Montgomery and Anne Arundel may have a higher expected rate because of how they are in a better position, with higher per-pupil funding and lower poverty rate, Swanson said.

This rating was created in order to show why some districts may have lower graduation rates than others, he said.

For example, Chicago Public Schools’ expected graduation rate in 2012 was 50 percent; their graduation rate was calculated at 75 percent.

States use different methods to determine their districts’ graduation rates. Education Week uses its own methodology using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, so that states can all be compared. Maryland had calculated Montgomery’s 2010 graduation rate at 86.15 percent and Virginia had calculated Fairfax’s rate at 91.2 percent. Those rates cannot be compared.

jbondeson@gazette.net