Palm Beach County had the eighth-best high school graduation rate among the nation’s largest school districts and the second-best rate in Florida in 2009, according to the national education publication Education Week.
The magazine also claims the graduation rate among Hispanic students in Florida was higher than the national average.
“It is gratifying to see the hard work of our teachers, staff and board pay off for our students in one of the highest graduation rates in the nation,” Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Wayne Gent said regarding Education Week’s Diploma Counts report.
The district had a graduation rate of 75.4 percent for the 2008-2009 school year, the report said, higher than other Florida districts except Broward County and the eighth-highest among the nation’s 50 largest school districts.
Maryland’s Montgomery County had the highest graduation rate among large districts at 87.6 percent. Debra Robinson, vice chairwoman of the Palm Beach County School Board, has suggested Palm Beach County could learn from the suburban Washington, D.C., district because of its concentration on college readiness from an early age.
The graduation rate among Hispanics statewide was 72.6 percent in 2009, Education Week said, higher than the national average of about 63 percent and higher than every state except New Jersey’s roughly 74 percent.
But the magazine uses three-year-old numbers and a formula different from the federal government’s standard method for measuring graduation. That formula calculates slightly lower graduation rates for the state and Palm Beach County.
Amy Hightower, director for the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center that did the research and published Education Week, said her center used a “cumulative promotion index” method that essentially estimated the graduation rates by looking at how many seniors graduated at the end of the 2008-2009 school year and dividing it by how many ninth-graders were enrolled in those schools four years earlier.
That method can be problematic, said Jamie Mongiovi, state Department of Education spokeswoman. If a ninth-grader later moves to another district, that move could be counted against the original district as a student who did not receive a diploma. Mongiovi said the state tries to track students by Social Security number to gauge graduation rates accurately.
Hightower said the methods used by states often produce estimates that are inflated higher than her center’s index.
Mongiovi said all states are migrating to a standard method established by the federal government. It measures the number of seniors who receive a standard diploma within four years of entering high school and accounts for students transferring in and out of a district. According to data released by the state using that method, the statewide graduation rate for the 2008-2009 school year was 65.49 percent. Palm Beach County’s rate was just over 70 percent.
Education Week does not estimate black and Hispanic graduation rates by district. But according to the federal method, Florida’s statewide graduation rate among black students was 53 percent in 2009 and 63 percent among Hispanics while Palm Beach County’s was 55 percent among blacks and 67 percent among Hispanics.
Hightower said her center uses numbers through the 2008-2009 school year because that was the latest one they could get comparable data for all 50 states. Florida figures show for the 2010-2011 school year the federally measured graduation rate was 70.6 percent statewide and 74.3 percent in Palm Beach County.
Top graduation rates among the nation’s 50 largest school districts for the 2008-2009 school year
1. Montgomery County, Md: 87.6 percent
2. Fairfax County, Va.: 85.5 percent
3. Jefferson County, Colo.: 85.5 percent
4. Baltimore County, Md.: 81.2 percent
5. Broward County: 78.3 percent
6. Anne Arundel County, Md.: 78.1 percent
7. Cypress-Fairbanks, Texas: 77.8 percent
8. Palm Beach County: 75.4
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