Last year enrollment hit a record.
Baltimore, Md (KM). Here’s friendly reminder: classes begin next Tuesday, September 5th for Maryland public school students. The Maryland State Department of Education says enrollments are expected to climb during the 2017-18 academic year. “Last year, we hit 886,000 students. And there’s no sign that enrollment growth falling off at this point. We’ll probably touch 890,000 students, maybe more,” says Bill Reinhard, MSDE spokesman.
The department says the population has experienced major demographic changes over the past 20 years. Reinhard says Caucasians represent 38.2% of the student population, while African-Americans make up 34.1%.. “Both of those students groups have actually declined in recent years,” he says. “The Hispanic student growth has grown dramatically as has Asian student growth.” MSDE says Hispanic kids make up 16.5% of the student body, and Asians account for 6.4% of the student population in Maryland. The percentage of students who are two or more races is 4.4%.
The Education Department says public schools in Maryland continue to serve a high number of students who live in poverty. The agency says 48.9% of elementary school students were eligible for free and reduced price meals last year. That number was 39% ten years ago.
The upcoming school year will see the strengthening of achievement among students, and accountability among teachers. MSDE says the state’s College and Career Ready Standards have been in place in public schools for the past four years, and there are signs the new core curriculum is having a positive impact. Along with the new standards, the Partnership for Assessment and Readiness For College and Careers (PARCC) tests were found to be more rigorous, but scores are on the rise, the agency says.
The Maryland State Board of Education has drafted its plans for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces No Child Left Behind. Reinhard says they will head to the governor for his review before being sent to the US Department of Education. “Our State Board has agreed to look at schools on a star system,” he says. “We’ll make a notation on whether or not those schools are improving or not improving.” Under the star system, Reinhard says a school receiving one star means it’s not doing well; but a school receiving five stars is considered to be excellent.
For past seven years, the high school graduation rate in Maryland on the rise. In 2016, it was 87.61% compared to 81.97% in 2010, according to MSDE.
At the same time, the dropout rate has fallen to new lows. Reinhard says it was 7.97% in 2016, dropping from 12% in 2010. “A lot of the credit for this goes to parents who see the importance of graduation. Because if a parent says a child can’t drop out, that child isn’t going to drop out,” says Reinhard. “Our compulsory attendance in Maryland is now 18. You have to have a parent’s okay to leave school.”
By Kevin McManus