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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida's graduation rates look terrible, again (depending on whom you ask)

High-school-diploma Another report on graduation rates. Another dunce cap for Florida. The latest "Diplomas Count" report from Education Week, released this morning, shows Florida with a 57.5 percent grad rate in 2006, ranking it 47th in the nation and far below the national average of 69.2 percent.

EdWeek's numbers are sharply at odds with Florida Department of Education figures, which show a 71 percent rate for 2006 (and a 75.4 percent rate for 2008).

Who's right? We don't know.

The highly regarded newspaper uses a formula and federal data (the most recent available was from 2006) to calculate estimated rates, while the Florida Department of Education uses a student tracking system that is widely considered one of the best in the country.

DOE officials say knowing the academic fate of every student makes their graduation rate far more accurate (even if they are counting GED recipients as graduates). And on this issue, they have an unexpected ally – the Economic Policy Institute, a union-backed think tank that says the "exceedingly inaccurate" EdWeek formula deflates graduation rates by 9 percentage points overall and 14 percentage points for minority students.

That's not to say the EdWeek report should be chucked.

For the most part, its numbers parallel the longer-term trends reported by DOE. And it still offers plenty of factoids to stew over. It says Florida's rate fell 3.3 percentage points between 2005 and 2006. It says Florida's 2006 rate is the same as it was in 1996. And it says while Florida's Hispanic students ranked 23rd among 42 states in 2006, its white students ranked 47 of 48 and its black students 40 of 42. (Not every state reported its racial breakdowns to the federal database used by EdWeek.)

On the other hand, EdWeek's calculations show Florida's rate dipped to 49.9 percent in 2000. And it says between 2001 and 2005, Florida outpaced every state but Tennessee in improving its rate. "Florida in general … has been a state that has been on the upward trajectory," Chris Swanson, who directs the research center that put together the Diplomas Count report, told the Gradebook.

Ron Matus, State Education Reporter


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


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