A larger percentage of Montgomery County Public Schools seniors tossed their mortarboards in 2013 than in 2012, according to Maryland State Department of Education data released Tuesday.
The county school system’s four-year graduation rate rose to 88.3 percent in 2013, an increase of about 1 percentage point from the 2012 senior class. The rate has increased about 1.5 percentage points since 2011.
Montgomery’s rate stands about 3.3 percentage points higher than the state’s rate.
Rates for student subgroups generally rose from 2012 to 2013 with the exception of the graduation rate for English for Speakers of Other Languages students, which declined slightly.
Black students’ graduation rate increased by 1.6 percentage points to 83.9 percent.
Hispanic students’ graduation rates rose by 0.8 percentage point to 77.5 percent.
Special education students gained 4.7 percentage points for a 67.5 percent rate.
Students who receive free and reduced-price meals — an indication of poverty — climbed 1.5 percentage points to a 78.1 graduation rate.
The graduation rate of ESOL students declined about 1 percentage point after an increase of 3.9 percentage points from 2011 to 2012.
The county school system also saw a slight decrease from 2012 to 2013 in the dropout rate, which fell about 0.5 percentage point to 6.3 percent. Since 2011, the dropout rate has decreased by about 1 percentage point.
Montgomery’s dropout rate stands about 3.1 percentage points below Maryland’s 9.4-percent rate.
Among the school system’s 25 high schools — 16 of which saw graduation rate increases from 2012 to 2013 — the highest increases from last year include Rockville’s 4.8 percentage points, Springbrook’s 4 percentage points, and Clarksburg’s and Northwest’s 3.7 points.
Wheaton High School saw the greatest decline in its graduation rate, dropping to 68.6 percent in 2013 from 76.1 percent in 2012 — about 7.5 percentage points.
Sixteen high schools saw an increase from 2012 to 2013 among black students and 12 high schools saw an increase among Hispanic students.
Of the high schools that showed an improvement among special education students, several school saw significant rate increases, including Paint Branch with a jump of 21.8 percentage points and Quince Orchard with a jump of 19.2 points.
School board President Philip Kauffman said he is encouraged by the improved graduation rates but also wants to learn more about how ready students are for college or a career after they leave high school.
Addressing ESOL students’ data, Kauffman pointed to recommendations in Superintendent Joshua P. Starr’s proposed operating budget that direct more resources to ESOL services.
“I think that’s something we need to do,” he said.
School board member Christopher S. Barclay (Dist. 4) said the school system needs to “take ownership” of its responsibility to help prepare ESOL students for the future.
“We can’t do that if we’re not helping ensure they get all the way through (high school),” he said.
Barclay said he thinks the school system needs to be as “aggressive” and “intentional” as possible to produce signficant changes in student performance, including those of black, Hispanic, and free and reduced-price meals students whose graduation rates are below those of their white and East and South Asian peers.
“We’ve got to make larger leaps in those groups really to deal with those gaps that we see,” he said.
Rockville High Principal Billie-Jean Bensen said that, while this academic year marks her first at the school, she has seen the continuation of recently started efforts that she thinks have helped students reach graduation.
Among other work, the high school has used team meetings — which pull together counselors, resource teachers, administrators and others — to talk about each student’s individual needs, she said.
In contrast to the school system overall, Rockville High’s 2013 data included a jump in ESOL students’ graduation rate to 85.7 percent from 41.7 percent in 2012.
Bensen said school staff work hard to provide a variety of supports to ESOL students beyond those found in the ESOL classes.
“That data in particular is just amazing,” she said.