Breaking News
More () »

Florida graduation rates released, Duval hits new record high in 90th percentile

In a statement released by the district, Duval Schools highlighted a 26.9 percentage point increase over the last 10 years.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Duval County Public Schools' high school graduation rates hit a record high last school year, new data shows. 

On Thursday, the Florida Department of Education released its annual graduation rate report. The state data measures the percentage, by school district, of students who earn a regular high school diploma within a standard four year period. 

Overall, the education department reported a 3.1 percentage point increase from year to year of Florida high school graduates, with a rate of 90 percent for the 2019-20 school year.

Duval County beat that standard, with a 90.2 percent rate for the same school year. That marks a 3.7 percentage point increase compared to one year prior and means the district has beat its own record high. 

More: See how this compares to last year's graduation rates

“There is much to be proud of for our Class of 2020 students and all our educators,” said Corey Wright, Duval Schools' Assistant Superintendent of Data and Assessment. “They faced unprecedented challenges in the final few months of their high school career, including trying to adapt to a new way of learning amid a global pandemic.”

In a statement released by the district, Duval Schools highlighted a 26.9 percentage point increase over the last 10 years. While impressive on paper, it's worth noting that the state's graduation rate calculations are not all that meets the eye. 

The United States Department of Education formula to calculate graduation rates changed years back, federally requiring that four-year rate calculations only count students who earn regular degrees within four years. Before that, state calculation formulas varied, with some including non-traditional diploma paths, skewing how one district or state's rate could be compared to another's. 

The rate used for the department's annual report also includes technicalities regarding high school students' withdrawal from one school to another versus a program outside of the district. All of that is to say that graduation rates do not necessarily mean the percentage of students who started freshman year at one specific school and then graduated from the same school by their senior year. 

More: Florida's climbing high school graduation rates aren't always what they seem

Still, the district said there's a lot to celebrate. 

In the school-by-school data breakdown, all 21 of Duval County's traditional high schools broke the 90 percent graduation rate threshold — a first, data shows. 

Schools highlighted by the district for substantial growth included Robert E. Lee (up 6.39 percentage points), Edward White (up 5.88 percentage points) and Wolfson (up 3.74 percentage points).

Because of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019-20 school year was a non-traditional school year to say the least. Schools quickly shifted to online classes and state exams were waived per an executive order from the Department of Education. Typically, those exams would play a role in a student's ability to graduate.

According to the report, approximately 7.1 percent of the 2019-20 graduating class utilized the exemptions. It's unclear how much the state exam waiver inflated Duval County's — or any other school distrct's — rates. 

Still, Duval County Public Schools acknowledged the exemption, adding that it would be "difficult" to calculate the impact but that it "should not diminish Team Duval’s pride in this victory during these unprecedented times."

The district added that in Duval County, 6.1 percent of students in traditional schools and 18.1 percent of charter schools used the state assessment exemption. 

This school year, state assessments are back in place. For that reason, Assistant Superintendent Wright anticipates next year's report to show a dip below this year's number, "but the overall upward trajectory will continue." 

“Point by point, our graduation rate has been steadily increasing every year since 2012.” Superintendent Diana Greene said. “There’s no doubt that the work put in – from our pre-kindergarten teachers all the way to our senior graduation coaches – had a significant impact on our historically-high rate. The waived assessments propelled us in a direction we were already heading.”

Emily Bloch is an education reporter for The Florida Times-Union. Follow her on Twitter or email her.

Click here to read more on this story from the Florida Times-Union.

Before You Leave, Check This Out