In case you missed the news during the holiday bustle, graduation rates increased across Florida. Students are graduating at record rates, reaching a 15-year high in the last school year at 86.1 percent, according to the state Department of Education.
Nearly every sub-group of students tracked achieved increases including African-American students, Hispanic students, students with disabilities and low income students.
Hillsborough, the area’s biggest district, logged in with a 85.8 percent grad rate. For white students, the rate was 90.8 percent, while for black students it was 79.4 percent and for Hispanic students 83.4 percent — the largest achievement gap in the region. For students eligible for free-reduced lunch, Hillsborough’s rate was 80.5 percent, while its rate for English language learners was 75.1 percent and for special education students it was 76.3 percent.
Pinellas fell just shy of the state rate, with 86.0 percent overall. The rates were similar for racial groups, with 88.5 percent for white students, 85.6 percent for black students and 85.3 for Hispanic students. Its rate for teens eligible for free-reduced lunch was 78.5 percent, for English language learners 78.4 percent, and special education students 72.5 percent.
Hillsborough County increased their overall graduation rate by 9.4 percent, inclusive of charter schools. Charter schools are independently run but are funded with taxpayer dollars.
In contrast, Hillsborough high schools with Student Alliance for Public Schools programs enjoyed a 13 percent gain. Student leaders at these select high schools work to remove barriers to diplomas for themselves and their peers. They review school data and create programs to bridge the gap for struggling students. They work with administration to identify and change school policies that hinder access to graduation and create policies to help achieve success.
Student Alliance leaders present their work at the Alliance for Public Schools’ annual GradNation conference sponsored by United Way Suncoast. The annual event convenes students, school officials and superintendents, and community members from Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties to discuss efforts to increase graduation rates across the Tampa Bay region. This year’s event will be held March 7th. Join us and be notified when registration is open for this inspiring event!