Md. Public School Enrollment Expected To Set Records This Year

Last year, it was over 879,000.

Baltimore, Md. (KM)  Over the next two weeks, public schools in Maryland are expected to open their doors for another academic year. Frederick County Schools are scheduled to open on Monday, August 22nd.  Washington County Schools opened on Wednesday.

The Maryland State Department of Education is projecting enrollments statewide to set another record, exceeding the 879,601 students who were enrolled last year. Spokesman Bill Reinhard says the student population has been growing for the past few years in Maryland. “We had a dip in the mid-2000’s, but it’s been a steady increase for the past several years,” he says.

The makeup of the student body is also changing. “Hispanic and Asian students we’ve seen grow fairly dramatically. A number of them are recent immigrants from other countries, or just have moved to the state from other states,” Reinhard says.

He says the increase in the number of Hispanic and Asian students is a trend throughout the state. “Some of the areas right around Washington DC–Prince George’s and Montgomery–have seen some of the biggest increases. But Frederick County has seen increases in Hispanic students. You see it really everywhere,” says Reinhard.
MSDE Maryland has a majority-minority student population, as the number of White and African-American students have declined. Caucasian students represent 40% of the student population, with African-Americans making up 34%.

The Department says Maryland also is seeing a rise in the percentage of students who are living in poverty. “About half of our kids in elementary school, their families are eligible for free and reduced  price meals. That’s been on the rise again for the past decade,” Reinhard says.

According to MSDE, the College and Career Ready Standards have been in place in all public schools for the past three years. “In our graduation exams, which are the PARCC exams in English 10 and Algebra I, you have to pass them in order to graduate,” he says.

PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment for Readiness For College and Careers.

The Department says these new Standards are having a positive impact. But Reinhard says he wouldn’t expect it to be any different. “They see the new bar and the jump over it. That has been Maryland’s history,” he says.

Maryland high school graduation rate continues to go up. MSDE says it stood at 86.39% in 2014, which is an increase from 81.97% in 2010.

Along with that, dropout rates have been falling to new lows among all racial and ethnic groups in Maryland.

Maryland law was changed in 2015 regarding when a student could leave high school before graduating. Students must be at least 17 years of age before being allowed to withdraw from school. Previously, the age was 16. The law is expected to change in 2017, going up to age 18.

Reinhard was asked if this new law keeps the graduation rate high in Maryland. “I think it’s more than the law,” he says. “I think it’s parents understanding the importance of a high school education, and I think it’s the students understanding the importance.”

This year, Frederick and Washington Counties are piloting a new program called “Apprenticeship Maryland.” The goal is to prepare high school juniors and seniors to enter employment or further education in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics-related fields after they graduate. “Those are where the jobs. And where the jobs with good pay are,” Reinhard says. “We’re really excited Frederick and Washington are going to see these new programs. I think they’ll get a lot of interest.”