Despite discouraging national statistics on high school graduation rates, Baltimore City Schools experienced the highest one-year rise in a decade. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States ranks 21st in the world for high school completion rates, down from the number one spot in 1970. What this rate boils down to is only seven out of 10 current ninth graders will receive a high school diploma.

Of the city’s ninth graders who started high school in 2007, 87 percent either graduated within four years or haven’t given up and are still working towards their diploma. City schools have made significant gains among its African American male students. The number of African American males who graduated was roughly the same as the number that dropped out in 2006-07. According to the 2010-11 data, three times as many African American males graduated as dropped out.

Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) also appear to be faring better than the national average. In May 2011, Education Week reported that BCPS has the fourth highest graduation rate among the country’s largest school districts. Similar gains are being made in BCPS as in the city. The Schott Foundation reported that the county has the third highest graduation rate for African American males among the country’s largest school districts.

To what do we attribute our achievements? Baltimore City reports that they are committed more than ever before to bringing dropouts back to school and tailoring school options to meet individual needs.

There’s always room for improvement — and more money. But according to the OECD, spending more will benefit taxpayers in the long run. They recommend smaller class sizes for all K-12 grades and that teachers make special trips to students’ houses. By their calculations, there is a return of $1.45 to $3.55 for every dollar spent. Or put another way, each graduate is worth $127,000 to taxpayers over the graduate’s lifetime.

Let’s hope that dollar investment per student reflects an incentive for teachers to make those evening house calls after a long day!   

One reply on “Baltimore Graduation Rates Rise, National Rates Decline”

  1. Since most Baltimore city schools show a significant number of students (40%+) unable to matriculate to 9th grade, this 87% statistic (which, by the way, rivals some of the best high schools in the entire country) seems awfully high. For many naturally bright students caught in the City system, a diploma is absolutely an important way out, and to free a future worker (or business owner/entrepeneur) to go forward without the stigma of not having a HSD/GED. However, for the rest of students, the City’s system of “helping them through school” will not necessarily prepare them with a solid work ethic (arguably, should be taught at home!), prepare them to make good life decisions, or give them basic skills that the majority of workers NEED in the workplace, like reading comprehension, basic grammar, and basic algebra. That’s the 900lb elephant, and the City remains afraid to talk about it, since much of it ties back to what happens at home for these kids, who DESERVE a good education – a stable platform from which to make life decisions. I’m pretty confident that the current arrangement in City schools doesn’t (and perhaps can’t) deliver that to these children.

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