Baltimore seeing more and more graduates

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— More Baltimore students are tossing their graduation caps in the air celebrating their new milestones while fewer are giving up and dropping out.

As graduation season hits and thousands of area students are matriculating from high school and college, the Maryland State Department of Education says graduation rates have hit record levels while the dropout rate continues to decline.

“Every student who graduates from high school moves a step closer to college, career, and a world of opportunities,” said State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery. “These results show that Maryland is headed in the right direction, but we also must continue work to close gaps in graduation rates that persist among students of different backgrounds.”

It’s not just the high schools, officials say. Students at local colleges and universities such as Morgan State and Bowie State are buckling down and receiving their degrees.

“You are agents of change,” Maryland Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings said to the more than 7,000 graduates at this year’s John Hopkins University commencement.

“Keep in mind that right now at Hopkins Hospital, a child is being born to save somebody and you were born to save somebody,” Cummings said. “Take that and understand that that is your mission.”

Cummings said he was proud to see so many at Hopkins and other schools completing their education course and now moving onto corporate America and other responsibilities.

What’s more, minorities in the Baltimore area are making great strides, improving their graduation rates. For instance, the graduation rate for African Americans rose from 76 percent to 81 percent over the past four years,

according to the state Department of Education. Also, a greater percentage of special education students, who have had difficulty getting a diploma in the past, are graduating and more students from low-income families are completing school.

The four-year cohort graduation rate reached 86.39 percent in 2014, more than four percentage points better than the 81.97 percent rate registered in 2010. The graduation rate jumped more than one percent over 2013, from 84.97 percent. At the same time, dropout rates have fallen to new lows. The graduation rate for African American students has jumped from 76.09 in 2010 to 80.54 in 2014.

Five years ago, Maryland moved to the cohort graduation rate, which follows a set group of students from freshman year through their senior year. The four-year cohort graduation rate has improved every year since. Simultaneously, the dropout rate has been in steady decline. The State’s dropout rate, which stood at 11.93 percent in 2010, dropped to 8.35 percent in 2014.

The percentage of students dropping out of school has also declined across racial subgroups. The four-year cohort dropout rate for Hispanic students has declined from 18.65 percent in 2011 to 14.68 percent in 2014. The dropout rate for African-American students fell from 14.6 percent in 2011 to 10.57 percent in 2014.

“The hard work of America’s educators, families, communities and students is paying off. This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “While these gains are promising, we know that we have a long way to go in improving educational opportunities for every student no matter their ZIP code for the sake of our young people and our nation’s economic strength.”