Highlands graduation rate trails state
Marc Valero | Highlands TodaySEBRING - Only six Florida school districts had a lower graduation rate in 2011-12 than the Highlands County School District, which also had triple the state's percentage of dropouts, according to data released recently from the Florida Department of Education.
Published: December 4, 2012
Published: December 4, 2012
Florida's graduation rate, according to the federal calculation, increased by an unprecedented 3.9 percentage points in 2012, moving to 74.5 percent of students graduating from high school within four years, the FDOE reports.
But, the percentage of graduates earning a standard diploma in Highlands County was only 62.1 percent for the 2011-12 school year, the FDOE adds.
Highlands' graduation rate tied Escambia County's (the state's western most county) rate.
Only the Panhandle and northern counties of Gadsden, Hamilton, Jefferson, Putnam and Suwannee had lower graduation rates.
Florida's black students showed the biggest increase over the past five years, rising from 50 percent graduating in 2008 to 63.7 percent this year.
Highlands Superintendent Wally Cox said, "You can look at it from an all negative standpoint or an all-positive or somewhat balanced. I would say that it shows that we have continued to improve from 2007-08 to 2011-12, but so has the entire state."
The Highlands graduation rate was 52.2 percent in 2007-08, according to the federal calculation in 2007-08.
Cox noted that the district's percentage of students (4 percent) who earned a special diploma exceeded the statewide percentage of 1.5 percent.
The district has one of the highest percentages of exceptional student education (ESE) students in the state, he explained. The percentage of special diplomas the ESE students earned was previously counted in the district's overall graduation rate.
While more of the state's black students are graduating, data shows that at Lake Placid High, only 14 of 35 (40 percent) of its black students graduated with a standard diploma.
Sebring High School's black graduation rate at 67.74 percent was higher than the state rate and also higher than the school's white graduation rate of 66.67 percent.
The black graduation rate for Avon Park was 61.11 percent.
The graduation rates for Highlands County's high schools for 2011-12 were: Avon Park High – 63.2, Lake Placid High – 66.0, and Sebring High 66.43.
The district graduation is lower than the school rates because it includes virtual instruction students, the school jail program, the Academy at Youth Care Lane and an outside operated program for dropouts, which is no longer in operation in the county.
Only four districts had a higher percentage of dropouts than Highlands County's 14.8 percent. The state dropout percentage for 2011-12 was 4.9 percent.
The FDOE notes, beginning in 2011, federal regulations required states to calculate a four-year graduation rate that includes only standard diplomas.
Previously, Florida's official graduation rate included both standard and special diploma recipients. Students who earn a special diploma, a GED-based diploma, a certificate of completion or have been retained and are still in school are not included in the federal graduation rate.
The graduation rate measures the percentage of students who graduate within four years of their first enrollment in ninth-grade. The federal graduation rate is used in calculating high school grades and allows comparison among states.
The district's high school principals did not respond to calls from Highlands Today.
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