Historically High-Performing Walt Whitman Underperforms on State Report Card

Plus, other interesting tidbits from area schools’ reports

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Bethesda’s Walt Whitman High School is accustomed to appearing at or near the top of both local and national rankings of high schools. So, its failure to crack the top tier in this week’s state report card was surprising to many.

Nearly a quarter of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) received the maximum five-star rating in the newly revamped state report card, intended to measure a school’s success, but Whitman did not.

Whitman was dinged in the ratings for low English Language Arts (ELA) proficiency and for problems with students missing school. The high school recorded 25.7 percent ELA proficiency, and received 1.9 points out of a possible 7.5 in the category.

Another troublesome area for Whitman was chronic absenteeism, defined as students absent from 10 or more days of classes. According to state data, approximately one-fifth of Whitman students were chronically absent during the last school year.

Overall, Whitman earned 74 percent of available points to receive a four-star ranking, just 1 percent shy of a five-star ranking.

Whitman Principal Robert Dodd could not be reached for comment this week.

All other schools in the Whitman cluster – Wood Acres Elementary, Burning Tree Elementary, Bannockburn Elementary, Carderock Springs Elementary and Thomas W. Pyle Middle schools – received five stars.

Here are some other interesting takeaways from the state Department of Education report:

  • All seven schools exclusively in the Winston Churchill High School cluster received five-star rankings, the only Montgomery County cluster to do so. The schools – Beverly Farms Elementary, Wayside Elementary, Potomac Elementary, Seven Locks Elementary, Bells Mill Elementary, Herbert Hoover Middle and Winston Churchill High – are all located in Potomac. Cabin John Middle School is a member of both the Winston Churchill and Thomas S. Wootton high school clusters and received four stars.
  • The Walter Johnson High School cluster also performed well, with seven of nine schools receiving five stars. Farmland Elementary, Luxmanor Elementary, Ashburton Elementary, Kensington Park Elementary Wyngate Elementary, North Bethesda Middle and Walter Johnson High all received five stars. Garrett Park Elementary and Tilden Middle School received four stars. Both four-star schools received 74 percent of possible points; 75 percent is needed for a five-star ranking.
  • Montgomery Village Middle School was one of the lowest-performing schools in the county, receiving one of three two-star rankings. The school received 37 of 83 possible points on the report, scoring lowest in academic achievement, academic progress and progress in achieving English language proficiency. Montgomery Village fared best in the “school quality and student success” category, recording 13.9 of 25 available points.
  • Montgomery County had an 89.5 percent graduation rate for the 2017-2018 school year, according to the MSDEA. Wheaton and Gaithersburg high schools tied for the lowest four-year graduation rate in Montgomery County at 77.4 percent. Thomas S. Wootton High School recorded the highest four-year graduation rate at 97.8 percent and a 99.1 percent five-year rate.
  • Seven of 25 Montgomery County high schools received three stars: Col. Zadok Magruder, Watkins Mill, Albert Einstein, Northwood, Wheaton, John F. Kennedy and Seneca Valley. These schools consistently fared worst in the school quality and student success, academic achievement and graduation rate categories. All other county high schools received four or five stars.

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