Some good news on the education front: The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) released information showing that graduation rates across the state reached a 12-year high in the just past year.
Statewide, according to the FDOE, the graduation rate climbed to 77.8 percent in 2015, an 18.6-percentage points increase since 2003-04, when it was 59.2 percent and 1.7 percentage points over 2014.
In Madison County, however, the graduation rate was 58.1 percent in 2015, a 16.9- percentage points decrease from the 75 percent rate in 2014. Madison County’s rate was 64 percent in 2013 and 66.3 percent in 2012.
Right across the county line, in Jefferson County (the middle high school), the graduation rate was 73.3 percent last year, a 16.6-percentage points increase over 2014 and 34.7 percentage points improvement since 2010-11.
Graduation rates for some of the other surrounding districts in 2015 were:
Leon County, 87.2 percent, an increase of 3.7 percentage points over last year and 18.8 percentage points increase since 2010-11.
Wakulla County, 78.1 percent, an increase of 3 percentage points over last year.
Taylor County, 64.7 percent, an increase of 15.2 percentage points over last year.
And Suwannee County, 67.5 percent, a decrease of 9.1 percentage points from last year.
Overall, 54 school districts in the state improved their graduation rates in 2015 and 21 saw drops in their graduation rates from the previous year.
Some of the highlights of the 2015 graduation rates that the FDOE underscores include:
A 7.2-percentage point increase in the statewide graduation rate since 2010-11.
A 9.3-percentage point increase in the graduation rate of African-American students since 2010-11 and a 3.2 percentage points increase since 2014.
A 7.3-percentage point increase in the graduation rate of Hispanic students from 2010-11 and a 1.7-percentage point increase over 2013-14.
Education Commissioner Pam Steward used the occasion to tout public education.
“This news is further evidence that Florida’s public education system is serving our students well,” said Steward. “More students are achieving success by earning a diploma, which will enable them to pursue higher education and meaningful careers.”
The FDOE explains that the graduation rate measures the percentage of students who graduate within four years of their first enrollment in ninth grade.
“The rate is calculated for an adjusted cohort of students – a group of students on the same schedule to graduate – taking into account those who enter or exit the group,” the FDOE states.
The calculation, in other words, counts only standard diploma recipients as graduates.
“Students who earn a special diploma, a GED-based diploma, a certificate of completion, or have been retained and are still in school after four years are counted as non-completers in the calculation,” the FDOE states.
It further explains that Florida’s graduation rate of 77.8 percent does not mean that 22.2 percent of students in the cohort were dropouts. Rather, the non-graduates category includes students who were retained and are still in school, those who received certificates of completion and those who received GED-based diplomas.
“In Florida’s 2014-15 cohort,” according to the FDOE, “4.1 percent of the students dropped out and 18.1 percent are still enrolled in school, earned a certificate of completion, a special diploma or GED-based diploma.”