Disparity in Graduation Rates Baffles School Officials

Guy Leonard, Gazette (Gaithersburg, Md.), April 13, 2006

African-American students have been graduating from county high schools at a higher rate than their white counterparts for the past four years, data from the Maryland State Department of Education shows.

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“It’s surprising that it’s going that way,” said James Smallwood, principal at Forestville Military Academy in Forestville. “You would assume—I know I did—that looking at the data [of higher test scores], the whites would graduate accordingly. It’s caught a lot of us by surprise.”

In 2005 Prince George’s County Public Schools graduated 6,210 out of 7,078 African-American seniors, or roughly 88 percent, and 804 out of 972 white seniors, or about 83 percent.

In 2004 the numbers were even more divided.

In that year, 88 percent of African Americans graduated from high school, but only 80 percent of whites received a diploma.

The 2005 High School Assessments (HSAs) showed a significant gap between blacks and whites in nearly every subject.

For example, on the English test, 69 percent of whites passed, but only 39 percent of African Americans completed the test successfully.

In algebra, 59.5 percent of whites passed the assessment, but only 27 percent of African Americans made the grade.

Statistics also show that a greater percentage of African Americans are choosing to stay in school than whites.

Last year, 3.2 percent of African-American high school students dropped out, but almost 4 percent of whites left school.

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