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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Graduation rates in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco plummet under new formula



down.jpgAs we noted in December, Florida is in for big shock when the new graduation rate formula goes into effect next year. And a new Department of Education report shows some big districts - including Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco - will have more explaining to do than others.

The rates in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco take the biggest hits among the state's biggest districts under the new formula, which was mandated by the federal government and is now being phased in, the DOE report shows.

The 2010-11 rates fall by 14.9 percentage points in Pinellas and Hillsborough and by 14.5 percentage points in Pasco. Among the state's 12 biggest districts, only Seminole falls as far (also by 14.5 percentage points). The state rate drops 9.5 points.

Put another way, Pinellas' grad rate is 65.2 percent under the new formula instead of 80.1 percent under the current one. Hillsborough's is 69.3 instead of 84.3. Pasco's is 71.0 instead of 85.5.

With the new numbers, Pinellas' rank among the big 12 district falls from No. 5 to No. 11; Hillsborough's from No. 4 to No. 8; and Pasco's from No. 3 to No. 7.

Unlike the old formula, the new one does not discount thousands of struggling students who transferred into adult education programs and often dropped out. It also does not count some diplomas awarded to special education students.

The new formula will be used to calculate Florida's official rates for the 2011-12 school year.

The 2010-11 rates, as determined by the new formula, were supposed to be used this school year to help determine whether high schools met federal "adequate yearly progress" standards. Now that Florida has won a waiver from some No Child Left Behind requirements, we're not sure where that stands. But as far as we can tell, even if the 2010-11 rates, as determined by the new formula, are out the window as far as No Child requirements, they'd still come into play for next year's high school grades. In other words, the new DOE report isn't just an interesting exercise; the starker grad rates it calculates are now part of the picture.

The DOE report echoes Tampa Bay Times' findings that showed some districts' grad rates fell a lot further than others once adult education transfers were factored back in. Critics say ignoring those transfers amounted to a massive loophole that padded Florida's graduation rate - and padded some districts' rates more than others.

Along with the report, the DOE released additional data here and here. It shows the new grad rates, according to the federal formula, broken down into different categories (school, race, gender, etc.)

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[Last modified: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 12:47pm]


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