Despite what Gov. Rick Scott and his Department of Education may tell you, the Florida public education system isn’t very good, especially when it comes to the percentage of students graduating from high school within four years.
The U.S. Department of Education recently released data listing state four-year high school graduation rates for the 2010-11 school year -- the first year in which all states used a common, rigorous measure. Prior to the new methodology, varying methods used by states to report graduation rates made such comparisons unreliable.
The goal was to develop a graduation rate that provided parents, educators and the public with better information on their school's progress while allowing for meaningful comparisons of graduation rates across states and school districts. The new graduation rate measurement more accurately accounted for drop-outs and students who do not earn a regular high school diploma.
According to data, Florida had one of the worst graduation rates in the nation, 71 percent. The state tied with Louisiana and had only five states ranked below it: Alaska and Oregon (68 percent), Georgia (67 percent), New Mexico (63 percent) and Nevada (62 percent).
Yes, Mississippi and Alabama finished ahead of Florida.
For African-American students, Florida's 59 percent graduation rate tied Ohio and only surpassed Wyoming (58 percent), Michigan (57 percent), Oregon (54 percent), Minnesota (49 percent) and Nevada (43 percent).
For the 2011-2012 school term, Florida’s federal graduation rate rose by almost four percentage points. Whoopee, let’s pop the champagne. Assuming no other state improved last year, Florida moved ahead of three states and tied Mississippi.
Twelve years of Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests haven’t helped this state catch up with the majority of the nation when it comes to public education. The 2010-11 crop of high school seniors had been raised in the FCAT era, but clearly teaching to the test didn’t make the big difference that its proponents preached.
Today, the politicians are pushing the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concept as the magic elixir for a more educated, competitive workforce. Enterprise Florida Strategy Council, Workforce Florida, Department of Education, Florida Council of 100 and the Florida Chamber of Commerce are singing its praises.
Meanwhile, our children aren’t graduating,
Folks, we don’t need any more buzz words or tinkering with public education to fit the needs of some mythical big employer. We need schools that connect with the students and instill a passion for learning.
Simply offering the kids a job isn’t a big enough incentive for them to graduate.
Rick Outzen is the publisher/editor of Pensacola's Independent News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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