High school graduation rates hit a non-pandemic high
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High school diploma requirements and other school measures come before House subcommittee.

High school graduation rates in Florida’s public schools have hit a new high — not counting the years when students were getting a boost courtesy of pandemic policies.

The House Education Quality Subcommittee was briefed on graduation rates at the state’s public schools and the numerous different paths offered to cross that high school graduation stage for credentials to open doors into the working world or college studies.

“Obviously, this is a dramatic increase,” said Republican Rep. Alex Rizo of Miami, subcommittee Vice Chair, referencing the slide that showed graduation rates at 59.2% in 2004, compared to 87.3% of the class of 2022 earning diplomas.

Students graduating in 2020 and 2021, however, were exempt from statewide, standardized testing required for graduation during those years. That means the 87.3% graduation rate for the class of 2022 actually slipped 2.8 percentage points from the class before them, which posted an all-time high. For the class of 2021, 90.1% of students got their high school diploma.

For the upcoming Session that starts March 7, numerous bills have been filed that will affect requirements for the state’s students as they prepare for their next stage of life. One bill would add another pathway to a Bright Futures Scholarship, through Advanced Placement classes. Another (SB 294 and HB 287) would add the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to required study in Florida schools.

Twin bills proposed in the House and Senate (SB 196 and HB 141) call for students to have a certified guidance counselor and add technical education and work-based learning opportunities to the list of items they will be counseled about.

Another bill (HB 445) would end the awarding of “certificates of completion,” which are given to students who earn enough credits for graduation but haven’t passed the state graduation test or achieved a 2.0 grade point average.

Democratic Rep. Gallop Franklin II of Tallahassee asked Paul Burns, presenting for the Department of Education, what the value lies in the certificate of competition.

“Those students who complete a certificate of competition — we still have options and pathways for those students who want to complete their high school diploma,” said Burns, who is the Chancellor of PreK-12 for the DOE. “We want to make sure that we have graduates who are walking away from Florida schools (who) can demonstrate success at the postsecondary level or in the workforce.”

Miami Rep. Christopher Benjamin, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, was asking why there was one high school diploma that required just 18 credits while another required 24 credits.

“The 18 (credit option) seems to be a lower of requirements,” Benjamin said. “Why would somebody do 24 if I can do 18 and leave?”

Fewer electives were the only difference between the two, Burns explained.

“When I became a principal, in my district, I had a student who was going to Harvard. … That student was ready to graduate from high school and really ready to begin his career at the postsecondary level. And so that student chose the 18 credit options,” Burns said.

“So it really is about just options and choices for our students so that they’ve got what they need in order to transition either to postsecondary or to the workforce.”

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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