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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Is Florida's graduation rate too good to be true?



no_way.jpgThe answer is yes. And so are the rates around Tampa Bay.

The 2009-10 rates, announced with much fanfare by Gov. Charlie Crist a few weeks ago, are at least 6 percentage points too high, according to some Gradebook number crunching. Meanwhile, the graduation rates in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties are fluffed up by even bigger margins.

The reason: A quirk in the state’s graduation rate formula (critics call it a loophole) that allows districts to exclude students who transfer into adult education programs. This is wonky as all get out, but for calculation purposes, those students are removed from their cohorts and subtracted from the denominator. They're simply out of the picture, whether they succeed in adult ed or not.

Put those students back into the formula, and Florida’s official 79.0 percent graduation rate drops to 73.2 percent.

Pinellas’ rate drops from about 78.0 to 70.7 percent. Pasco’s, from 81.9 to 73.3.

Hillsborough, which officially has the highest grad rate among the state’s big urban districts, falls further than any big district save Seminole. Its rate tumbles from about 82.3 percent to 70.4 percent.

Many students who transfer to adult education drop out once they get there. A few earn GED diplomas. But under Florida’s new grad rate formula, which went into effect last year, GED diplomas don’t count.

The quickie chart below shows the official 2009-10 grad rate for the 12 biggest districts; what the revised rate is with the adult education transfers in the mix; and how many students in the cohort were “coded” as adult ed transfers.

Another look at Florida graduation rates
district official rate adult ed transfers revised rate difference
Pinellas 78.0 820 70.7 -7.3
Hillsborough 82.3 2,138 70.4 -11.9
Miami-Dade 72.1 1,148 69.1 -3.0
Broward 77.7 875 74.5 -3.2
Palm Beach 81.9 292 80.1 -1.8
Orange 79.0 660 74.8 -4.2
Duval 66.6 508 62.9 -3.7
Polk 73.2 303 70.0 -3.2
Lee 80.3 389 74.9 -5.4
Seminole 93.8 760 80.5 -13.3
Brevard 95.3 502 87.0 -8.3
Pasco 81.9 506 73.3 -8.6
FLORIDA 79.0 14,958 73.2 -5.8

Here are the numbers for Hernando: Official rate: 79.0. Adult ed transfers in the cohort: 95. Revised rate: 74.8.

For what it's worth, official grad rates that many consider more accurate will emerge in 2011-12, when Florida moves to yet another grad rate formula - the federal uniform rate. That formula says adult ed transfers must be included in the cohort.

(Card image from

[Last modified: Friday, December 17, 2010 3:35pm]


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