For the first time in four years, the dropout rate in Prince George’s County Public Schools has declined, although it still lags behind most other Maryland school districts.
In Prince George’s, the dropout rate declined from 19.53 percent in 2012 to 18.5 percent in 2013 while the graduation rate increased from 72.87 percent in 2012 to 74.12 percent in 2013.
“We’re thrilled about the ongoing progress, but it’s not enough,” said school board chairman Segun Eubanks. “We must continue the progress in bringing our graduation rate up and our dropout rate down.”
Janice Briscoe, special projects officer in the high school performance area, said the school system has instituted a number of policies and programs to reduce the dropout rate, including an “early warning system.”
“It flags students that may be in danger of dropping out, based on a number of criteria, and targets extra resources towards them,” Briscoe said.
Briscoe said the school system also has increased credit recovery options, allowing students to make up failing grades as well as instituting targeted attendance initiatives and revising the Student Code of Conduct to reduce long-term suspensions and expulsions.
“The data shows that students need to actually be in school in order to be successful,” Briscoe said.
The school system’s four-year cohort graduation rate has also increased, from 72.9 percent to 74.1 percent, paralleling a 1.5 percent graduation increase across the state as well.
Missing between the two numbers, Briscoe said, are “non-completers” — students who take more than four years to graduate and special education students who complete a course of study but do not earn a diploma.
County school system results mirror a decline across the state, according to data released last month by the Maryland Department of Education.
The state measures dropout and graduation rates based on the four-year adjusted cohort rate, which measures student progress over a four-year span.
“What the four-year cohort rate does is if a student starts in ninth grade, it tracks whether or not that student graduates within four years,” Briscoe said.
The state dropout rates declined from 10.22 percent in 2012 to 9.36 percent in 2012. Overall, state graduation rates increased from 83.57 percent in 2012 to 84.97 percent in 2013.
The county dropout rate is higher than all other Maryland school districts with the exception of Somerset County, which saw its dropout rate increase from 12.44 percent in 2012 to 18.78 percent in 2013.
Only the Baltimore City School System had a lower graduation rate than Prince George’s County, with 68.5 percent graduating in 2013.
Ernest Moore, president of the Prince George’s County PTA Council, said the council’s executive committee is currently reviewing the graduation and dropout data.
“When parents ask us about this, we want to try and take a good look at the data, to better help them understand it,” Moore said.