Florida has improved its graduation rate again, posting small gains among black and Hispanic students and continuing the climb of the past decade.
The state saw a slight gain in 2013, with 75.6 percent of students earning a high school diploma compared to 74.5 percent last year. That builds on a jump of nearly 4 percentage points the previous year.
In a prepared statement following the Florida Department of Education's release of the new data, Gov. Rick Scott praised the results, saying that "more Florida students are receiving a quality education so they can pursue their dreams."
Data comparing Florida to other states was not yet available for this year. In a report released last year, Florida's rate was lower than all but five states. That ranking was based on 2011 data, when Florida's rate was 70.6 percent.
This year in the Tampa Bay area, rates were up in Hillsborough County Schools, but down or flat in the Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando school systems. All but Pasco lagged behind the state average, according to results released Wednesday by the state Department of Education. In Hernando, where the rate was stagnant, superintendent Lori Romano said, "We have the ability to be much better than that."
All four school districts in the region saw a bump in the graduation rates for black students, although there continued to be sizeable gaps between black and white students in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. There were no large gaps in Pasco or Hernando.
In Pinellas, the graduation rate for black students went up slightly, with 56.3 percent of students earning a diploma in 2013 compared to 54.6 percent the prior year. That was far behind white students' 76.6 percent.
Superintendent Mike Grego said the school district is "moving in the right direction" with black and Hispanic students. He said he will meet with principals to talk about how to replicate the strategies of successful schools.
Boca Ciega High, for instance, posted the biggest gain, moving to 85 percent from 75 percent. Palm Harbor University High had the highest graduation rate, with 96 percent, while Dixie Hollins High had the lowest rate, with 73.9 percent.
In Pasco, where the overall graduation rate was 75.9 percent, the schools ranged widely, from 91 percent at Wiregrass Ranch High in Wesley Chapel to 60 percent at Fivay High in Hudson. The schools serving wealthier communities typically had higher graduation rates.
Florida's graduation rates have increased significantly over the last 10 years, with an overall gain of about 16 percentage points. The state's graduation rate in the 2003-04 school year was 59.2 percent. The rate does not include students who earn a special diploma or GED.
Staff writers Jeffrey S. Solochek and Danny Valentine contributed to this story. Contact Cara Fitzpatrick at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8846. Follow @Fitz_ly on Twitter.