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If 86.9 percent graduated, does that mean Florida’s dropout rate is 13.1 percent?

In a four-year cohort graduation rate, not everyone completes school at the same time.

As the Florida Department of Education announced Thursday, 86.9 percent of the 212,240 teens who entered a public high school in fall 2015 graduated by spring 2019.

What happened to the rest of the group?

It would be easy to assume that the other 27,731 students dropped out. But the state lists the official 2019 dropout rate as 3.4 percent, or 7,257 students.

What’s up with that?

Well, the federal formula that Florida now uses calculates graduation rate as the percentage of students who graduate within four years of their first enrollment in ninth grade.

Not everyone completes high school in that time frame. But that doesn’t mean all of those non-graduates are dropouts.

Some have transferred to adult education/GED programs. Some have landed in the juvenile justice system. Some finished school but did not meet all the requirements, receiving a certificate of completion rather than a diploma.

Some simply have been retained and continue for a fifth year.

While they might still count as part of the original cohort of students, they are neither graduates nor dropouts.

According to the state, the largest group of nongrads in 2019 was students who remained enrolled, at 9,567. That’s 4.5 percent of the remainder, which is more than the official total of dropouts.

The next biggest section — 5,377 students, or 2.5 percent — moved into adult ed.

Not all of Florida's nongraduates in 2019 were dropouts, as this Department of Education chart indicates. [Florida Department of Education]