School Board Officials Respond to Graduation Rate Drop

School Board Officials Respond to Graduation Rate Drop

Officials at the Leon County School Board have responded to a Tallahassee Reports story published about a decline in high school graduation rates.

The report, based on information released earlier this month by the Florida Department of Education (FDOE), showed that high school graduation rates in Leon County dropped by 3.7% for 2016-17.

Gillian Gregory, Assistant Superintendent of Academic Services for Leon Schools, explained to TR that the decline in graduation rates was, in part, due to the fact that FDOE no longer allows for students who receive diplomas through alternative methods to be counted as graduates.

The change in the calculation was dictated by a new rule in an education bill passed last spring by the Florida Legislature.

Gregory explained that beginning in 9th grade the academic performance of students are tracked and based on evaluations and/or test results, an intervention can be initiated.

If the intervention determines that the student may not graduate, the student is provided a different path that can lead to a diploma.

This path involves a partnership with an alternative school, such as EdOptions. Alternative schools provide online coursework that can lead to a diploma without passing state exams which are normally required for graduation.

Gregory said this program costs the school about $1300 per student and during 2016-17 approximately 86 students took this path.

Research by TR found that a number of school districts use this approach. For example, Smart Horizons – an online alternative school – has partnerships with about 25 Florida school districts and serve about 1,000 students.

Superintendent Rocky Hanna, who said the program was in place when he was elected, told TR he is not sure if the program will continue.

Gregory said the alternative path provides a diploma to students that would have otherwised not graduated.

State Investigation of Student Transfers

Journalist Andrew Atterbury, with TCPPalm.com, recently reported that in 2016 the Department of Education began looking into districts where students transferred to a nonpublic school or a home-education program in the second half of their senior year.

In March of 2017, state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart expanded the inquiry statewide that the findings will eventually be presented to the Board of Education.

Atterbury also reported that Dennis Kramer, director of the University of Florida Education Policy Research Center, said transferring students right before graduation is a common practice in many states.

Typically, districts do this to give students more support — or to game graduation-rate calculations, Kramer said. More often than not, districts are trying to help students, Kramer wrote.

Kramer said he believes the new rule is an attempt to increase reporting accuracy across Florida.

But the state could be better off creating a new category — a transfer rate to accompany graduation figures — instead of penalizing schools by labeling students as dropouts even though they did graduate, Kramer said.

“Counting them as the same,” he said, “does both the sending and receiving school a disservice.”

8 Responses to "School Board Officials Respond to Graduation Rate Drop"

  1. Leo   January 21, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    Great comments from Gillian Gregory who was never interviewed for the job, a true political appointment with her own agenda. Excuses are excuses. Less students graduated than the year before. When the Assistant Superintendent provides the public with excuses, the good news is we see she is a mouthpiece of Hanna. Less students graduated on your watch. Admit it, or not. The data speaks volumes as do your excuses. To the students who did not graduate because of the lack of leadership from the Gregory-Hanna connection I am sorry. Less students have a future now that you are in charge. Put your energy into now supporting the students that were let down by your leadership and that of Mr. “Notebook” Hanna.

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  2. Beth Larsen Overholt   January 21, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    Leon County Schools paid for 6 different alternative diploma options. Many on-line or virtual schools have many flaws with curriculum and attendance. There is a problem when my student at a traditional brick and mortar school takes 180 days to finish a class and credit recovery of that same class can be done in 3 weeks. There are more questions to be asked on this issue.

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  3. Sandra   January 21, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    The graduation rates for the state of Florida is at an all time high. The graduation rate in Leon County dropped by the largest percent in the state. The edu-babble response that you provide is an attempt to deflect from the reality that less students graduated in Leon County with the two of you in charge, while the same “new rules” applied throughout the state show an increase in graduation rates.

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  4. Monique   January 22, 2018 at 8:39 am

    I am the grandmother of a child that did not graduate this year. I now understand why they didn’t. Because according to the comments of Miss Gregory if students are difficult to teach then Leon County Schools doesn’t do a very good job of teaching them. When Ms. Gregory and the other associate superintendent who are making over $100,000 a year why does she complain that cost a little bit extra to provide education to students who are a little bit more challenging? I know because the superintendent might have to give rid of people and put resources into the classroom. Mr. Hanna brought back Ricky Bell who was in DROP and retired, Bev Owens who was in drop and retired yet when he campaigned he said he wasn’t going to do it. Mr. Hanna you are the reason Leon County schools are falling apart, you and no one else. Let’s see you cost the school district $600,000 with your notebook which you admitted you had no knowledge of wrongdoing that could have paid for 30 teachers but it didn’t. You bring back retired high-paid so-called educators when you said you wouldn’t. What else would we expect from a man who hid from his responsibilities for 10 years.
    Time for the school board to take a stand and require no high-paid administrators making $100,000 while children don’t graduate. What is it that people do for $100,000 that don’t teach kids that’s so important?

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  5. Rosemary N. Palmer   January 22, 2018 at 11:46 am

    LCSD almost 30 years ago was ordered to compensate a student whose reading difficulties they left unidentified, and unserved. The judge said at the time that LCSD didn’t have any resources in place for such students.

    If you talk to school staff, few even can tell you the names of the reading and math interventions that are successful for students who haven’t learned the regular way, and while a few principals in a few schools have used for various periods of time interventions that work, at the point where the knowledgeable adopters moved on, the interventions were no longer used. Yes LCSD still uses Successmaker, which Jackie Pons admitted to me in 2009 did not show results for those who struggled.

    In December 2016, longtime reading professional, and LSD employee Stuart Greenberg announced the District’s adoption of Lindamood Bell intervention, but students whose parents know enough to ask for it, are denied access.

    Last year, the legislature began to require multisensory reading instruction, but only K-3: there will be hundreds of students, maybe thousands who get discouraged and act out or drop out when they cannot do what comes more easily to others. It is a lot less expensive both in money and human capital to get preschool children prepared for, and to teach children K-4 to read, even in small groups or 1:1 when necessary, using interventions that are successful and changing what doesn’t work; and freely providing experiential learning and accommodations for those who are still working to read, than to live with what happens when you don’t.

    But FL sets the cut scores below what is needed for career and college readiness, because to own where we really are in educating our children would be some disaster. (See Board’s last year’s determination— supported by many parents and politicians — to use a lower one.)

    And what the above report fails to acknowledge is that schools actively encouraged students to go to the alternative schools because that removes the zoned school from culpability for the failures themselves, not that staff had any expectation that the students would receive appropriate intensive instruction in those alternate schools to remedy their deficits. (It would be interesting to see the data on how many students left each of the highschools in their 1-4 years of high school.)

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  6. James Anderson   January 22, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    The best thing that could happen is to close down all public schools and replace them with private schools.

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  7. alex   January 22, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    FDOE finally found out that the school district was using outside contractors and home school option for students that were not going to graduate as a way to improve graduation rate. Supt. Hanna and district staff have used this for years even when he was principal of Leon High. He and his high paid staff cannot act like this something new.

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  8. Mark   January 27, 2018 at 11:43 am

    Rocky Hanna just suspended a principal for possibly doing something tbat Rocky Hanna admitted he did himself. Hanna dated a teacher he supervised, had sexual encounters with her at school had it covered up and the teacher tranfered with a minetary settlement using taxpayer dollars.

    Reply

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