High school grad rates up in Tampa Bay area

Posted at 11:53 AM, Jan 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-05 17:24:54-05
Graduation rates for the class of 2015 resulted in Florida achieving a 12-year high, according to data released today by the Florida Department of Education.
Florida’s statewide graduation rate climbed to 77.8 percent, an increase of more than 18 percentage points since 2003-04 and 1.7 percentage points over last year.  
Lennard High School in Hillsborough County Schools saw their graduation rate jump six percent over last year, climbing to 74 percent of students getting a diploma.
Now, Noemi Vazuqez, is on track to get her diploma. She remembers what it was like as a ninth-grade student at Lennard. She was one of dozens who were able to go to community college and take courses, in addition to her high school courses.
"I was really nervous," Vazquez said. "I wondered am I going to succeed here, is this really for me?"
But Vazquez said her teachers refused to let her slip through the cracks by offering encouraging words constantly.
"I'm a good student, I'm going to succeed one day," Vasquez said.
Other students feel the support from teachers too.
"If you have the right people around you, always trying to keep you up, then you are going to make it far in life," said Kadeem Roman, a senior at Lennard.
"They push you, they believe in you," said Alena Acosta, an 11th-grade students. "They just know that you're going to succeed."
Students said they feel that has helped propel them toward a diploma. Teachers said that trust has helped as well.
"Once you've built that relationship, then that student wants to perform for you, they want to do well, they want to please you as their teacher," said Mary Freitas, principal at Lennard High School.
Highlights of the class of 2015 graduation rates include:
  • The statewide graduation rate jumped 18.6 percentage points since 2003-04, up from 59.2 percent in 2003-04 to 77.8 percent in 2014-15. 
  • Since 2010-11, the statewide graduation rate has increased 7.2 percentage points.
  • African American students’ graduation rate increased 9.3 percentage points since 2010-11 and 3.2 percentage points since last year. 
  • The graduation rate for Hispanic students rose 7.3 percentage points from 2010-11 and 1.7 percentage points over 2013-14.
Highlights in the Tampa Bay area include: 
  • Citrus County improved their graduation rate to 77.4 percent, a 0.4 percentage point increase over last year and 2.9 percentage points since 2010-11. 
  • Hernando County improved their graduation rate to 78 percent, a 1.3 percentage point increase over last year and 6.5 percentage points since 2010-11.
  • Hillsborough County improved their graduation rate to 76 percent, a 2.5 percentage point increase over last year and 6.7 percentage points since 2010-11.
  • Pinellas County improved their graduation rate to 78.3 percent, a 2.1 percentage point increase over last year and 13.1 percentage points since 2010-11.
  • Polk County improved their graduation rate to 69.4 percent, a 0.4 percentage point increase over last year and 3 percentage points since 2010-11.
The graduation rate measures the percentage of students who graduate within four years of their first enrollment in ninth grade, board members said.
The rate is calculated for an adjusted cohort of students – a group of students on the same schedule to graduate – taking into account those who enter or exit the group. 
Florida’s graduation rate only considers standard diploma recipients as graduates in the calculation. Students who earn a special diploma, a GED-based diploma, a certificate of completion, or have been retained and are still in school after four years are counted as non-completers in the calculation.
Florida’s graduation rate has risen by 7.2 percentage points since 2010-11 and 18.6 percentage points since 2003-04.
"This news is further evidence that Florida’s public education system is serving our students well," said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart in a statement. "More students are achieving success by earning a diploma, which will enable them to pursue higher education and meaningful careers..."
Florida’s graduation rate is 77.8 percent, but that does not mean that 22.2 percent of students in the cohort are dropouts. 
Non-graduates include students who have been retained and are still in school, received certificates of completion or received GED-based diplomas. 
In Florida’s 2014-15 cohort, 4.1 percent of the students dropped out and 18.1 percent are still enrolled in school, earned a certificate of completion, special diploma or GED-based diploma.