Florida graduation rates

By Michael Holzman, Senior Research Consultant, The Schott Foundation for Public Education

The headline is:  Florida High School Graduation Rate is Highest Ever.

The Orlando Sentinel has reported that the Florida State Department of Education has announced that the state’s graduation rate is now 80.1 percent.  The graduation rate for Hispanics is 77.3 percent and that for Black students is 68.4 percent.

These are extraordinary numbers.

Just how extraordinary are they?  The newspaper notes that:

“The state’s method of figuring its graduation rate — one created by the National Governors Association — deletes from the calculations students who leave to attend adult education programs . . . The federal government has proposed a measure of calculating graduation rates that would count those students as “non graduates” and would also not count as graduates recipients of “special diplomas.”

What happens if we count students who leave to attend adult education classes as “non graduates” and don’t count “special diplomas”?

When most people talk about high school graduation rates, they mean the percentage of students in grade 9 who graduate four years later.  Using that definition, and counting only standard diplomas, Florida’s graduation rate is 63 percent, not 80 percent; the graduation rate for the state’s Hispanic students is 65 percent, not 77 percent; for Black students 54 percent, not 68 percent.  The graduation rate for Black male students alone was 47 percent.  Most of Florida’s Black male students who were in Grade 9 four years ago did not graduate with a standard diploma four years later.

In Duval County (Jacksonville), the graduation rate for Black male students is now 36 percent, in Pinellas County (Tampa) it is 34 percent.  Both of these are much improved from two years ago, when each graduated less than a quarter of their Black male students in four years.  Now they graduate more than one-third, leaving just under two-thirds behind.

Progress, of a sort.