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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida's graduation rate up again, even without GEDs



Grad cap Florida's graduation rate climbed to a record-high 76.3 percent this year despite the exclusion of GED recipients, according to Department of Education data released this morning.

The Pinellas and Hillsborough school districts also continued to improve despite GEDs being removed from the mix. The official Pinellas rate climbed to 77.2 percent. The Hillsborough rate climbed to 82.2 percent. Hillsborough is the top performer among the state's seven big urban districts, with Palm Beach coming in a distant second at 77.7 percent.

"I'm very pleased. We work very hard at this," Hillsborough Superintendent MaryEllen Elia told The Gradebook. "But I'm still concerned that we're losing kids. We all need to work harder."

Pinellas Superintendent Julie Janssen issued this statement: “It’s exciting to see that the efforts of our school and district staff members have contributed to improved graduation rates. Our district will continue to have a laser-like focus on the individual needs of every student to meet graduation requirements.”

The state released three sets of graduation rates this morning, which has the potential to make things very confusing. One rate is based on how Florida has calculated it for years, which includes some GED recipients. Another is based on a formula required for No Child Left Behind. The third is based on a formula recommended by the National Governor's Association, which does not include GEDs and which is now what Florida will officially use.

Florida has taken a lot of heat for including GEDs, which critics have used to accuse Florida of "padding" its rates. Under the GED-less NGA formula, Florida's rate still climbed from 73.1 to 76.3 percent. Here's how Tampa Bay districts did:

  • Pinellas: 71.4 to 77.2

  • Hillsborough: 77.0 to 82.2

  • Pasco: 73.4 to 77.8

  • Hernando: 74.3 to 75.4

"Florida's education system continues to be a rising star in our nation, and our teachers and school leaders should be commended for their extraordinary effort," Gov. Charlie Crist said in a statement.

Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future applauded the results - and took a little dig at the folks who recently filed the high quality schools lawsuit.

"Today’s announcement is one more indication Florida is providing a quality education for Sunshine State students," foundation director Patricia Levesque said in a statement. "Since introducing high standards, accountability and school choice, Florida has experienced unprecedented rising student achievement in public schools, especially among our poor and minority students."
“The results are indisputable, and stand in stark contrast to the eight years before the A+ Plan for Education was launched – a period marked by a 7 percent decline in our graduation rate. Critics of Florida’s bold education reforms should take notice of our educators’ extraordinary success in raising student achievement during the last decade."

Here's a dueling statement from Bud Chiles, son of former Gov. Lawton Chiles and the head of the Worst to First group: “Is it accurate for Gov. Charlie Crist to describe Florida’s education system as a ‘rising star’ when our graduation rate is reportedly the 47th out of 50 states? That’s how Florida’s graduation rate really compares. That’s not mentioned in today’s press release."

And another from state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, who's running for attorney general: "The sad truth is that the answer to abysmal graduation and drop out rates is not to find new ways to calculate rates, but rather to find out why our poorly funded schools have trouble keeping kids engaged through graduation."

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[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:43am]


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