Graduation rates in Florida’s Big Bend are up—with Gadsden and Jefferson Counties posting double-digit increases in the number of kids earning diplomas.
Jefferson County saw its graduation rate improve by more than 16 points to 73 percent. Gadsden County saw its grad rate jump nearly 10 points to 65 percent. In Leon county, the rate for 2014-2015 school year was 87 percent, besting the state average by 10 percentage points.
“Kids have more requirements than ever for graduation, and more stringent requirements and more rigorous hurdles to jump over, but we have more options for them to be individual in how we get them there," said Lincoln High School Principal Alan Burch.
Florida A&M University Developmental Research School Superintendent Patricia Hodge says changes in state laws and testing requirements have made it harder for kids to reach graduation. But she also notes when it comes to graduation rates, details are important.
FAMU DRS has a 97 percent grad rate, one of only eight school districts in the state to reach that milestone. The school serves students from kindergarten through 12th grade, and had 32 seniors last year.
"Especially when you're in a small school district like ours, it could be a handful of students who could drop your rate from over 90, to under 90 percent," she says. That's true for other districts such as Jefferson County, which also has a smaller number of seniors.
FAMU DRS pairs its seniors with teachers who serve as mentors to keep them on track.
The graduation rate data was released by the Florida Department of Education Tuesday, and Leon County Superintendent Jackie Pons says he’s proud of minority student progress.
“We wanted to improve our African American graduation rate. This year the African American graduation rate is up to 78.4 [percent]," he said.
The state’s graduation rate does not mean that nearly a quarter of kids dropped out. The difference is made up of students who have been retained, received certificates of attendance, or earned a GED. Florida’s dropout rate was around four percent for the last school year.