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Pasco high schools cheer rising graduation rates

Cypress Creek had the highest percentage among district schools, while Hudson High had the lowest.
The Pasco County School District's high school graduation rate rose to 88.3 percent in 2019, surpassing the district's goal of getting to 85 percent by 2020. [Times]

Pasco County school officials cheered the district’s jump in graduation rate for the Class of 2019, with the system outpacing the state rate by nearly 2 percentage points.

The improvement came as the state hit its highest historical rate, although it was tempered by the knowledge that other key indicators such as college entry scores continued to lag the national average.

Overall, Pasco County’s rate rose to 88.3 percent — up 1.6 points from a year earlier. District officials noted that they had previously set a goal of reaching an 85 percent graduation rate by 2019-20, the current academic year.

"We are definitely moving in the right direction, year after year,’’ said superintendent Kurt Browning.

The results did not reflect an achievement gap based on race.

District-wide, 88.4 percent of white students graduated within the four years since they entered ninth grade, compared to 88 percent of black students, 86.7 percent of Hispanic students, 96.3 percent of Asian students and 92.7 percent of multi-racial students.

However, the outcomes differed when broken down for students with different types of needs. Among those, 78.9 percent of English language learners graduated with the four-year cohort, along with 83.7 percent of students with special education requirements and 83 percent of those who qualified for federally subsidized lunches.

Those numbers played out clearly when looking at the schools and their locations. Those in poorer areas tended to have lower percentages of four-year graduates than those in the wealthier communities.

Cypress Creek High School, in a growing area of Wesley Chapel, had the highest graduation rate with 96 percent, followed closely by nearby Wiregrass Ranch High at 95.3 percent, Sunlake High in Land O’ Lakes at 94.9 percent and Land O’ Lakes High at 94.4 percent.

Choice schools also performed well. Both Dayspring and Classical Prep charters reported 100 percent of their small senior classes graduated, and Pepin charter school, which serves students with special needs, had a 92 percent graduation rate. Pasco eSchool, a district-run virtual program, had a 97.6 percent rate.

Hudson High continued to have the district’s lowest graduation rate, at 81.3 percent. That marked a slight increase from 79.7 percent the year before.

Other schools serving less affluent communities also logged in below the district mark. Zephyrhills High showed best at 87.5 percent, while Gulf High — which has an International Baccalaureate program — came in at 85.8 percent, Pasco High at 83.1 percent, Fivay High at 82.8 percent and Anclote High at 82.5 percent.

The School Board has said it wants to take steps to improve academic offerings for the lower performing schools — particularly in west Pasco. Hudson High is among those slated to get an overhaul, including Cambridge courses and increased dual-enrollment opportunities, along with added social services.

PAY RAISES: Pasco County’s nearly 5,000 teachers could see raises in their paychecks beginning Feb. 21, if they approve a contract deal reached with the district just before winter break.

The School Board held its ratification vote Tuesday for the plan, which includes 3.25 percent pay hikes and continued full-paid health benefits.

The package includes an added $7.5 million for pay, plus another $530,537 to cover increases in pension contributions.

Teachers will get their chance to show support or opposition to the agreement on Jan. 29.

Teachers got a lot of what they asked for — including the removal of a controversial plan that would have required middle and high school teachers to instruct an extra period each day. Negotiators also made some concessions as they worked to complete bargaining before taking vacation.

They settled a month after the school-related personnel unit, which reached a similar outcome on money. That union approved its agreement with 98 percent support.

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