Pinellas County students graduating in record numbers

Since 2003-2004, Florida’s graduation rate has increased 27.7 percentage points, going from 59.2% to 86.9% in 2018-2019.

LARGO — More Pinellas County Schools’ students are graduating than ever before with 14 of 16 traditional high schools increasing their graduation rates in 2019.

The Florida Department of Education recently released a report showing that the state’s 2018-2019 graduation rate had increased to 86.9%, an increase of 0.8 percentage points over last year. Since 2003-2004, the state’s graduation rate has increased by 27.7%.

“I applaud Florida’s students, parents and educators for their hard work and dedication that led to these increased graduation rates,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a press release. “While these results are a positive mark of Florida’s upward progress, we cannot allow ourselves to become complacent. We must continue striving for educational excellence and making Florida the No. 1 state in the nation for education.”

Pinellas County pulled ahead of the state average with a graduation rate of 88.4%, up 2.44 percentage points from last year’s record high. Pinellas tied for the No. 1 spot with the highest graduation rate among the state’s 10 largest districts. Orange County also had an 88.4% graduation rate.

Nearby Pasco County and Hillsborough County also placed in the top 10. Pasco reported an 88.3% rate and Hillsborough had an 86.2% rate.

“We are extremely proud of the hard work students, teachers and staff put in to achieve these phenomenal results, said Superintendent Michael Grego. “While we had much to celebrate, we continue to strive to realize the district’s vision of 100% student success. We are steadfast in our commitment to provide students the tools they need to fulfill their full potential and prepare them for college, career and life.”

District officials also touted the success of the Bridging the Gap program that helped achieve the highest graduation rate among black students and the lowest achievement gap in district history.

The graduation rate for black students in Pinellas was 81.3%, up 5.1 percentage points from 2017-2018 and nearly 25 percentage points since 2013. Statewide, the graduation rate for black students rose to 81.5%.

Hispanic students’ graduation rate improved to 86.7%, an increase of 1.7 percentage points from last year. Statewide, Hispanic students’ graduate rate increased to 85.9%.

Graduation rates for students in the county’s Exceptional Student Education program, which includes those with disabilities, rose 7.2 percentage points to 79.7%, which officials say is the highest in district history. Statewide, students with disabilities increased their graduation rate to 80.6%.

Pinellas County’s achievement gap shrank to 8.7% and is the first time the gap has been in single digits. When the Bridging the Gap plan was implemented six years ago, the gap was 18%.

Districtwide, 14 of 16 traditional high schools increased their graduation rates in 2018-2019. East Lake High School had the highest rate at 99.8%, up from 99.6% last year. Countryside High showed the biggest improvement with an increase of 3.3 percentage points to 94.3% compared to 91% last year.

Gibbs High School had a decrease in its graduation rate going from 91.3% in 2017-2018 to 88.5% in 2018-2019 and Pinellas Park dropped from 93.3% to 92.3%.

Other schools rates include:

Boca Ciega High at 94.7% compared to 91.9% last year.

Clearwater High at 96.2% compared to 95.6% last year.

Dixie Hollings at 94.2% compared to 92.7% last year.

Dunedin High at 96% compared to 93.6% last year.

Lakewood High at 96.1% compared to 95.2% last year.

Largo High at 93.4% compared to 90.9% last year.

Northeast High at 94.8% compared to 92.1% last year.

Osceola Fundamental High at 98.6% compared to 98.3%.

Palm Harbor University High at 99.2% compared to 98.5%.

Seminole High at 95.9% compared to 93.7%.

St. Petersburg High at 96.1% compared to 94.2%.

Tarpon Springs High at 96% compared to 94.1%.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.