In a recent press release, Leon County Schools noted that the graduation rates for 2018-2019 had reached 92.4% and ranked fifth in the state of Florida when compared to the other school districts.
“Once again, I am beaming with pride over our district’s graduation rate. Today we celebrate the hard work of our teachers and the success of our students. I am grateful for everyone who played a part in this accomplishment,” said Superintendent Rocky Hanna.
However, a closer look at the numbers behind the graduation rates raises several questions. Questions that have yet to be answered by LCS.
First, it appears that over the last four years more and more students are graduating without passing the regular class assessments. These class assessments are the language arts portion of the Florida Standards Assessment exam and the “end-of-course” (EOC) exam for Algebra 1.
Rather than pass the assessments, students are taking alternative tests to meet the graduation requirements. Students have the option of using alternative tests like the SAT or ACT to meet those high-school graduation standards.
For example, a 420 on the SAT math section can be substituted for the Algebra 1 EOC. However, state officials have argued that these alternative tests are not consistent with recently adopted education standards and have advocated a change.
LCS provided data to TR that shows the number of graduates that satisfied the state approved graduation test requirement through alternative testing has increased 291% from 129 in 2015/16 to 505 in 2018/19.
This means that the percentage of students that graduated from LCS through alternative testing has increased from 6.4% in 2015/16 to 21.8% in 2018/19.
Not surprisingly, the number of graduating students that took the traditional route to graduation and were coded “met all requirements” and passed the regular assessments, has decreased each year from 2015/16 through 2018/19.
TR has requested a meeting to discuss these numbers. However, LCS has yet to provide TR access to any employee with knowledge of the numbers.
A second question relates to the impact of home school students on the graduation rate.
Per FDOE regulations, home school students are removed from the cohort and do not count against the graduation rate. However, recent reporting by TR found that a number of home school students were out of compliance.
The reporting revealed that over 33% of Leon County’s 2,346 students enrolled in home school failed to comply with home school annual evaluation requirements. Some of the students have been out of compliance for one or more years.
An audit completed by Leon County Schools found that these students should have been withdrawn due to failure to comply with the evaluation requirements.
Was this considered in the calculation of the graduation rates? If so, how?
TR will continue to seek answers to these questions from LCS.