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High school graduation rate hits an all-time high

By Staff | Nov 20, 2010

The graduation rate in Lee County hit an all-time high this year, which is also higher than the state average.
The graduation rate for Lee County during the 2009/2010 school year was 80.3 percent under the new National Government Association Rate, which was compared to the state average of 79 percent.
Chief Academic Officer Dr. Constance Jones said last year’s graduation rate is the highest in the history of Lee County Public Schools.
The district’s dropout rate was also at an all time low of 1.3 percent, which is lower than the state average of 2 percent.
The National Governors Association Rate calculates the graduation rate from students who received a standard and special diploma.
A new calculation will be implemented again nationwide by 2011/2012 by the U.S. Department of Education that will only count standard diploma data for the graduation rate, eliminating GED and special diplomas.
Lee County Interim Superintendent Larry Tihen said the credit for the continued improvement of graduating students has to be given to the students and teachers. He explained that the motivation and education experience the students are provided with by their teachers keeps them in school.
“We are very pleased that more and more students are being successful,” he said.
Tihen believes the handful of programs the district has implemented over the years is a big contributing factor to the increased number of students graduating.
Jones agreed in stating that she sincerely believes that the expansion of programs at the high school level is the contributing factor to the increase in graduating students. She said over the past seven years the district has worked hard in redesigning high schools programs to make them more inviting for students.
Some of those programs include two additional IB programs and art programs, three Cambridge international programs and 22 career and technical academies. Jones said they also added a dual enrollment academy to every high school in the district, which provides students with the opportunity to take a college level course at their high school, at Florida Gulf Coast University and Edison State College and through online courses.
“Students can now graduate from high school with an AA degree,” she said.
Another motivating program that has been implemented at the high school level is AVID, Advancement Via Individual Determination. Jones explained that the program is provided for those students who are stuck in the middle of the road who could go either way. The program provides the students with a mentor, along with more support to succeed in their studies.
Alternating block scheduling also helps with the graduation rate because it gives the students the capability of taking more courses. Jones explained that students can retrieve a credit if they do not pass a course or if they want to improve their grade point average, along with the ability of taking elective courses, which helps in keeping them motivated to stay in school.
Currently one in every five students enrolled in the district is a part of the JROTC program, which Jones believes is another contributing factor in the higher graduation rate.
“That program targets leadership skills and team work,” she said, adding that the instructors also monitor their students’ graduation rates, while helping them search for college scholarships, which amounted to $4 million last year.
The graduation rate for JROTC students was 98 percent.
“They don’t let them fail,” Jones said. “They really monitor, coach and encourage them to stay in school.”
These “additional programs have given our students more options and opportunities to be successful in school,” Tihen said.
He said it is all about redesigning the school system to provide programs that will help the students graduate.
“We certainly want to do better,” Tihen said. “We want to see every child graduate and we will continue to work and ensure that happens.”
The graduate rate begins tracking students when they enter the 9th grade and continues until they receive their high school diploma.
“The interesting piece about our graduation rate of 80.6 percent is that it represents all of their high school requirements to graduate in 4 years,” Jones said.
She went on to explain that many of the remaining 20 percent of students received their GED, are in their fifth year of finishing their high school requirements or are apart of the exceptional student education population that allows the students to continue to work on their high school skills until they are 22 years old.
That is “four different possibilities,” Jones said, which she explained is why the drop out rate is extremely low.
The 2009/2010 graduation rates for the Cape Coral schools are Ida S. Baker High School with 97.2 percent, Mariner High School with 90.5 percent, Island Coast High School with 86.8 percent and Cape Coral High School with 89.7 percent.
The highest graduation rate for Lee County Public School district is 98.5 percent at Fort Myers High School.