School districts in Southwest Florida, as with the state, saw increases in their high school graduation rates for the 2016-17 school year, according to data released on Wednesday by the Florida Department of Education.
Collier County Public Schools saw their graduation rate increase by 1.5 percent over the 2015-16 school year, going from 86.7 percent to 88.2 percent. Out of the 67 county school districts in the state, Collier ranked 10th in last year’s graduation rates, tied with tiny Lafayette County, the state’s least-populated county. Lafayette had a cohort of just 85 students, compared to 3,394 in Collier and 6,461 in Lee.
“We appreciate the efforts of our dedicated teachers, staff, parents, and our strong community partners in supporting our students,” Collier Superintendent Kamela Patton in a statement. “With an increase in the graduation rate, more students are ready to pursue higher education and career opportunities. Increased graduation rates can be attributed to an ongoing strategic focus on student achievement, professional learning for staff, and an ongoing emphasis on school readiness at all levels.”
In Lee County, the graduation rate rose by nearly a full percentage point, from 77.8 percent to 78.7 percent. Lee County School District officials did not respond to a request for comment.
The state average grew by 1.6 percent for 2016-17, up to 82.3 percent. The federally-mandated calculation, called the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate, measures how many students complete their diploma within four years of first starting ninth grade, but does not include GEDs or special diplomas.
“I am thrilled to celebrate our state’s students and educators on this monumental accomplishment,” Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said in a statement accompanying the data release. “Excelling in high school opens doors to opportunities that provide students long-term benefits, and Florida’s steady increase is promising for our state’s and students’ futures.”
Since switching that the four-year cohort figure in 2010-11, Florida’s graduation rate has risen from 70.6 percent. But compared to the rest of the nation, Florida students continue to lag behind. The most recently comparable data on the federal level, from the 2015-16 school year, showed a national average of 84.1 percent. 36 states were ahead of Florida’s 80.7 percent number that year.
Still, state leaders touted the increase, Governor Rick Scott pointed to an increase of 23 percent since 2003-04, as a positive. The state also pointed to increases in graduation rates among minority students – particularly African-American and Hispanics – and the disabled, all of which have long lagged behind the average as a success.
“We want every Florida student to have access to a world-class education so they can succeed in the classroom and their future careers, and that is why my recommended Securing Florida’s Future budget includes historic funding for education for the sixth consecutive year, including significant investments for teachers and students in our K-12 system,” Scott said. “I look forward to working with the Legislature during the upcoming session to make sure our students have the resources they need to continue to build on this accomplishment for years to come.”
In Collier County, minority and disabled graduation rates were ahead of the state average. 84.6 percent of the county’s African-American students graduated in four years, ahead of the state’s 74.8 percent average. That figure was 72.9 percent in Lee County.
Hispanic students, Collier County’s largest cohort by race, had an 85.1 percent graduation rate, compared to 81.3 percent statewide.
Collier was also ahead of the state average in ESE students(74.9 percent to 66 percent), free and reduced lunch recipients(84.1 percent to 76.8 percent), and those designated as English language learners(72.5 percent to 67.3 percent).
To see the full data, including breakdowns by school, click here.
GRADUATION RATES, 2016-17 school year
American Indian 83.8/72.7/80.0
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 83.3/NA/87.2
Free/Reduced Lunch 84.1/73.8/76.8
English Language Learner(ELL) 72.5/53.0/67.3
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Collier Schools Superintendent Kamela Patton sent on Thursday morning.
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