Maryland’s Compulsory Age of School Attendance Rises to Support Student Success
Students Must Now Attend School until at Least Age 17
Posted on 07/30/2015

Wicomico County Public Schools wants all students to become college and career ready during their school years and to enjoy that walk across the stage to receive a diploma once they’ve met Maryland’s graduation requirements.

Before now, a small number of students chose not to continue until graduation once they reach the age of 16. But under Maryland’s new Age of Compulsory School Attendance law (Senate Bill 362, signed into law in 2012), the age for compulsory school attendance is now 17, effective July 1. Students can no longer drop out of school when they are 16 years old. In 2017, the compulsory age of attendance will rise to 18.


Students who are 14 and 15 right now (mostly rising 10th-graders) will be required to remain enrolled in school until they are at least 18, as they are likely to be 17 when the age rises to 17 during their junior year (2016-2017), and 18 in their senior year (2017-2018), when the age rises to 18.


Students who are currently 13 (mostly rising grades 8 and 9) or younger will be required to remain enrolled until age 18, graduation, or an alternative educational program or other circumstance, as detailed in SB 362.


Students who are 16 or older right now (mostly rising 11th grade and above) will not be affected by the change in Maryland’s age for compulsory public school attendance, as they will be 17 or older during the 2015-2016 school year when the age increases to 17. They are on track to graduate prior to the compulsory age of school attendance rising to 18 in 2017-2018.


Maryland’s rising age for compulsory school attendance is designed to support students in building an educational foundation that will yield benefits for a lifetime. Students who stay in school through graduation can take full advantage of classes, programs, extracurricular activities, and guidance that can help them be college and career ready.

Career and college planning occur throughout a student’s time in school, starting with classroom activities, visits by professionals, and events such as Career Day in elementary school. In middle school computer classes, students explore career tracks, view videos, and begin to write up a blueprint for their high school years using the Naviance platform for college and career readiness. Parents of middle and high school students can also access Naviance to work with the student on planning.

In high school, students can begin traveling on their chosen path to college and career from the first day as a freshman, whether they’re interested in rigorous college preparation through Advanced Placement courses, specialized training through the Department of Career and Technology Education at Parkside High School, leadership development through the JROTC program at Wicomico High School, or another track. After age 16 students can pursue dual enrollment, taking classes at a local college or university while still enrolled in high school. Some students earn a Maryland High School Diploma through studies at Evening High School or the Choices Academy.

“Every part of our school system, from the programs that serve children from birth to 5 and in prekindergarten to the schools that help students learn and grow from that first day of kindergarten until that last day as a senior, are focused on supporting success for each student,” said Dr. John Fredericksen, Superintendent of Schools. “A student can take many different roads while in school, but we want to make sure all of those roads lead to students being successful and ready for the challenges of college and career.”

Data show that dropouts in Maryland need public assistance more than high school graduates, earn less over a lifetime, and have poorer health outcomes than those who graduate high school (The Taskforce on Dropout Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery, 1998). Dropouts comprised more than 42% of those entered into the Maryland Juvenile Justice System between school years 2007-2011 and 57.2% of adult offenders entering the Department of Corrections in 2011 (The Task Force to Study High School Dropout Rates of Persons in the Criminal Justice System, 2012).