Is Smaller Really Better? School Size, Graduation Rate, and Test Scores in PGCPS

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

The recently released report on school size commissioned by the Maryland State Department of Education has suggested enrollment limits set at 1,700 students for high schools, 900 students for middle schools, and 700 students for elementary schools.

Ten of PGCPS’s high schools have enrollments exceeding 1,700 students. How do these high schools perform, compared with the system’s smaller schools? Is smaller really better?

In the table below, I compare key data on PGCPS high schools from the 2014 Maryland Report Card: 1) size of enrollment, 2) the percentage of 12th graders who have passed the state assessments*, 3) the graduation rate**, 4) the mean (average) composite SAT score for 12th graders, and 5) the percentage of students qualifying for free and reduced meals (FARMs).

All data is from 2014, the most recent year available, and I have excluded alternative, vocational, and evening schools. Schools are listed in descending order by size of enrollment, and those above the dotted red line have enrollments greater than the suggested limit.

SchoolSize_Table *The number here represents the percentage of 12th graders who took all state assessments and passed all tests or met the requirement by using the combined score option. More information here.

** The graduation rate given here is the rate for the 4-year adjusted cohort.

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