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Poolesville, Thomas Jefferson high schools post top local graduation rates

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Poolesville High School in Montgomery County and Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County tied for the best four-year graduation rates in the Washington area, according to data the U.S. Department of Education released Tuesday.

At both schools, 99 percent of the class of 2011 graduated in four years, the data shows. The lowest rates at traditional high schools in those counties were at Wheaton High School in Montgomery County, which graduated 74 percent of the class of 2011, and at J.E.B.

Stuart High School in Falls Church, which graduated 66 percent of the class of 2011.

"We're very pleased that our graduation rates are moving in the right direction," said Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman Dana Tofig. "There are certainly challenges that some of our schools face -- the impact of poverty, language acquisition."

Source: U.S. Department of Education

Top 10 graduation rates
School School system 2011 graduation rate
Poolesville High School Montgomery County Public Schools 99 percent
Thomas Jefferson High School Fairfax County Public Schools 99 percent
Thomas S. Wootton High School Montgomery County Public Schools 97 percent
Langley High School Fairfax County Public Schools 97 percent
Winston Churchill High School Montgomery County Public Schools 96 percent
Benjamin Banneker Academic High School DC Public Schools 95 percent
Walt Whitman High School Montgomery County Public Schools 95 percent
Madison High School Fairfax County Public Schools 95 percent
Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Montgomery County Public Schools 94 percent
South County Secondary High School Fairfax County Public Schools 94 percent

At Wheaton, for example, the school has a large population of students whose first language is not English, which can be a hurdle for graduation rates, Tofig said. Still, "I think you would find that Wheaton offers no excuses at all."

More recent data for both Stuart and Wheaton also showed improvements over the class of 2011's graduation rates, said Tofig and Fairfax County Public Schools spokesman John Torre.

Cardozo Senior High School, part of D.C. Public Schools in Ward 1, had the worst graduation rate among traditional high schools, with just 40 percent of the class of 2011 graduating in four years. Anacostia Senior High School in Ward 8 was slightly better, with 42 percent graduating.

The U.S. Department of Education's data reflects a new way of calculating graduation rates that allows for a more accurate comparison across school systems.

"These high school graduation rates are a vital tool to help parents and school leaders make useful comparisons of student growth and success," said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "These data will also help state, district and school leaders better gauge progress and support their work to help more students graduate on time, ready for college and careers."

However, the federal data does not reflect more recent data DCPS released in the fall, spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz pointed out. In fact, Cardozo and Anacostia swapped rates for the class of 2012 -- 40 percent of Anacostia students graduated, compared with 42 percent of Cardozo students -- according to DCPS data.

It also does not take into account students who graduate in five years. At both Cardozo and Anacostia, for example, 7 percent of each school's class of 2011 -- those students who entered as freshmen in 2007 -- graduated after a fifth year, bringing the five-year graduation rate to 47 percent at Cardozo and 49 percent at Anacostia.

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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Rachel Baye

Staff Writer - Education
The Washington Examiner