PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — During a challenging year of the COVID-19 pandemic, area school districts are showing an increase in high school graduation rates, with most exceeding the state average, which also rose.
According to the Florida Department of Education, the statewide graduation rate for the 2019-2020 school year is 90%. It is important to note, however, that due to COVID-19, students were exempt from meeting statewide standardized testing requirements. The Florida Department of Education says about 7.1% of the graduating class graduated with that exemption.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
The graduation rate for the Class of 2020 in Palm Beach County is 90.2%.
When you only include district-operated schools and not charter schools, that number climbs to 94.4%, according to the Florida Department of Education. This rate represents a sharp increase from the 91.6% graduation rate in 2019 for district-operated schools.
Twenty-two of the district's high schools have a graduation rate of 90% or higher, and many made significant increases.
Lake Worth Community High School earned a 12.3% increase to 91.1%, Palm Beach Gardens Community High School achieved a 6.3% gain to 96.7%, and Palm Beach Lakes Community High School showed a 4.7% increase to 87.8%. Alexander W. Dreyfoos Jr. School of the Arts had a 100% graduation rate. Village Academy had the largest single-year increase of 18.7% to achieve a 100% graduation rate. Spanish River Community High School also had a 100% graduation rate.
The district said it also continues closing the achievement gap. The number of Black student graduates jumped by 5%, Hispanic students by 2.7%, and White students by 1.3%.
"I couldn't be more proud of our students, teachers, and school administrators," said Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy. "Our challenge now, in this time of COVID, is maintaining this level of success. As a District, we will continue to work in the best interest of our students and make up for any lost ground to elevate our future graduating classes."
In Martin County, the school district celebrated a graduation rate of 90.2% for the 2019-2020 school year. However, the rate for the three traditional, district-operated schools went up to 95.3% which is a 1.7 percentage point increase over last year.
"In our mission of educating all students for success, we always begin with the end in mind," Superintendent John D. Millay said. "We remain committed to providing each student with the effective instruction and learning opportunities he or she needs to achieve the goal of high school graduation. While we still have work to do to ensure all of our students become graduates, I remain confident that we are headed in the right direction. I am extremely proud of our students, faculty, staff and families for their hard work and commitment to achieving success."
Jensen Beach High School had a 95.1% graduation rate, 94.5% for Martin County High School, 96.5% for South Fork High School, and the Clark Advanced Learning Center had a 100% graduation rate.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY
St. Lucie Public Schools earned a graduation rate of 93.2%, while the six traditional high schools boasted a rate of 98% for the 2019-2020 school year, according to the district.
St. Lucie Public Schools also says it continues to close the achievement gap as the graduation rate for Black students improved to 92.5%, Hispanic students improved to 94% and Exceptional Education Students improved to 91.6%.
"This is a tremendous accomplishment as our trend continues to increase for all students," Superintendent E. Wayne Gent said. "I commend our students, teachers, administrators and staff. All demographic groups continue to person at very high levels and our students are graduating from high school prepared to enroll in college or directly enter the workforce due to our strong career and technical programs as evidenced by the robust number of industry certifications earned by our students."
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY
Indian River County School District leaders are celebrating the highest graduation rate on the Treasure Coast at 93.4%, ranking the district seventh in the state.
"Prior to that, we were number 21. So this is significant improvement over the course of the year," said Superintendent Dr. David Moore during a news conference Friday morning. "We're setting a very high bar."
That number shows an increase of 4.9 percentage points from the 2018-2019 school year. Sebastian River High School had a graduation rate of 91.4% and Vero Beach High School improved its graduation rate to 95.6%.
"This is the score that is the ultimate evaluation of how successful a school system is. Do your students graduate?" Dr. Moore said.
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Okeechobee County's graduation rate is 84.2% according to the state, which is an increase over last year's 75.8%.
To see more details on the statewide graduation numbers and comparison, click here.