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Florida’s high school graduation rates inch up

Most major demographic groups saw improvement.
Osceola High School seniors march at their graduation ceremony.
Osceola High School seniors march at their graduation ceremony.
Published Jan. 9, 2020

A year after celebrating Florida’s highest-ever high school graduation rate in 2018, state officials on Thursday cheered teens’ continued — but slight — improvement in 2019.

The increase occurred as Florida’s average score on the SAT college entrance exam dropped 15 points, and logged in 60 points below the national average.

Florida’s Class of 2019 saw 86.9 percent of its members graduate, up 0.8 percentage points from its immediate predecessor. Similar changes came across most major subgroups of students, according to state Department of Education data released Thursday.

• Black students’ graduation rate rose to 81.5 percent, up 0.6 percentage points.

• Hispanic students’ rate reached 85.9 percent, an improvement of 0.8 points.

• White students rose to 90.2 percent, a gain of 1.2 points.

• Students with disabilities increased their graduation rate to 80.6 percent, a 3.6 point gain.

• Economically disadvantaged students improved to 82.9 percent, an increase of 0.9 points.

Florida 2018-19 graduation rates by subgroup improved in most major categories.
Florida 2018-19 graduation rates by subgroup improved in most major categories. [ Florida Department of Education ]

“Today’s results show that more Florida students than ever are positioning themselves for success after high school,” state education commissioner Richard Corcoran said in a news release announcing the results.

Gov. Ron DeSantis added that, while the outcomes appear positive, Floridians must not take them for granted.

“We cannot allow ourselves to become complacent,” DeSantis said. "We must continue striving for educational excellence and making Florida the number one state in the nation for education.”

Tampa Bay area school districts largely mirrored the state gains, with all but Hillsborough County exceeding the overall state rate.

Hernando and Pinellas counties each reported rising to 88.4 percent graduation rates, with Pasco right behind with a jump to 88.3 percent. Hillsborough logged in at 86.2 percent, up slightly.

But as is the case with statistics, the overarching state numbers masked both highs and lows that could merit additional attention.

On the upside, Liberty, Jackson and DeSoto counties saw strong improvement in their students crossing the stage, though each remained below the state rate.

On the flip side, Gadsden and Jefferson counties had their graduation rates, already well below the state level, sag even lower. Gadsden dropped from 66.1 percent to 60.4 percent. Jefferson, the state’s only all-charter district, dropped from 73.4 percent to 62.7 percent.

Visit the Department of Education’s website for more data on the graduation rate.

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