GEDs and the Gandy Gap
Could more GEDs be one reason Hillsborough's graduation rate is a baffling 15 percentage points better than Pinellas's? Maybe. The state Department of Education includes GED diplomas when it calculates grad rates. And according to this year's stats, Hillsborough students earned GEDs at more than twice the rate of their counterparts across the Gandy.
Hillsborough's official state grad rate of 79.1 percent dips 2.8 percent when GEDs are excluded. Pinellas's official rate of 64.5 percent dips 1.1 percent.
Maybe Hillsborough is more aggressive than Pinellas in steering struggling students towards GED programs? That's pure speculation. But it's a safe bet Pinellas Superintendent Clayton Wilcox is taking a close look at all the possibilities (see Friday's St. Petersburg Times story here) as he tries to get to the bottom of a gap that is counter-intuitive, given that Hillsborough has a greater percentage of at-risk kids.
While we're on the subject, grad-rate experts often slam Florida for "padding" its rates by including GEDs. So how much of a difference do GED's make? The state's official grad rate, announced Nov. 30 (see Times story here) was 72.4 percent. But take out GEDs and it falls to 70.1 percent. Not huge, maybe, but significant.
In some districts, especially some of the smaller, rural ones, the difference is huge: GEDs account for nearly 12 percentage points in Glades, 18 in Hamilton and 33 in Liberty. To see DOE's district-by-district breakdown, click here here.
- Ron Matus, state education reporter; Times photo of the Gandy Bridge, 2006