Among the many traditions surrounding high school graduations is the annual release of graduation rates, followed by a chorus of praise from school district officials.
This year was no different. Tampa Bay area superintendents commended their teachers, students and principals for continued improvement, even though 2019-20 was a year like no other.
Florida students were home from March through June as schools were closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. And, with high-stakes tests cancelled, seniors were exempt from standardized exam requirements that often get in the way of a standard diploma. By the state’s own estimate, 7 percent of its graduates made use of this exemption.
Still, the numbers, released late Thursday, prompted school district leaders to celebrate. Graduation rates for area districts were 91.7 percent in Hernando County, 88.8 percent in Hillsborough, 89.9 percent in Pasco and 91.5 percent in Pinellas.
All four exceeded the previous year’s numbers. Statewide, the graduation rate improved from 86.9 in 2019 to 90 percent for 2020.
Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning, in his district’s announcement, said, “year after year we are seeing steady progress. I’m so proud of our students for all their hard work. And our teachers from kindergarten through high school can share the credit.”
Hillsborough’s announcement noted that this year’s rate is the highest in the district’s history. “I am incredibly proud of our students,” superintendent Addison Davis said, “along with our teachers, school counselors, support professionals, school-based leaders, and parents who have made this new milestone a reality.”
Pinellas County’s announcement listed Florida’s 10 largest districts, showing Pinellas at the top when it comes to graduation rates. “These are more than numbers,” superintendent Mike Grego said.
In its notice, Pinellas gave credit to that district’s Bridging the Gap plan for increasing success among minority students.