I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sustaining Escambia County's New, Higher Graduation Rates While Simultaneously Improving Student Readiness upon Graduation

I was a guest on Wednesday's "Pensacola Speaks" radio program discussing the topic of our excellent progress on achieving a higher graduation rate in Escambia County.

The district has done a fantastic job of increasing the rate over the last 6 year period, particularly the rate of at-risk student graduations and also Black student graduation rates.

While we still trail the state average by about 7 percentage points, there is no doubt that we have improved significantly over this last 6 years, clocking in a 72.6 on-time four year graduation rate for all students.

To what is this increase attributed?

According to Superintendent Thomas it is a combination of things to include focusing on at risk students, providing graduation coaches, and also expanding career academies at all of our schools to broaden the appeal of finishing High School to non-college bound students.

I'm happy to see a larger percentage of students finishing in four years, but I want to know what that 72.6 percent number jumps to if we take into account the fifth year, if we add in the numbers of students that take just a little extra time to finish.  I requested this data and was told it is not readily available.

This is an important data point which I will be looking into going forward--I think it is a number the

 public would like to see.

Additionally, I would like to see some better way of measuring the "College/Career Readiness" level of our graduates;  In watching the recent State Board of Education Meeting last week, several speakers suggested that business leaders and college administrators report an alarming number of graduates statewide are not equipped with the skills necessary to enter the workforce or succeed at Freshman level college coursework.  If we award diplomas to students who pass the minimum standards to receive a diploma, yet are not prepared for entry-level job arithmetic/grammar requirements, or who are not prepared to take Freshman level college coursework without remediation-----should we really be celebrating?

This is why I think it is MUCH more important to graduate students who are fully prepared to succeed, and award High School Diplomas only to such students; students who do not master the subject area curriculum but who slide by with low grades and abysmal standardized test scores should be given completion certificates, not diplomas.

Otherwise, when our "graduates" tank in the college/career world after earning a diploma from our schools----what does this ultimately say about the quality of the education we provided them in our district?

We must be honest with students, but with This Wednesday's state board of education vote to lower standards, I do not see enough people in education in Florida with the stomach to stand up to the status-quo and set rigorous, realistic standards.  It is depressing.

Are our graduates prepared for work and college?

This is a legitimate question to ask, but nobody wants to talk about the huge number of Florida High School Graduates that need remediation or who fail out of Freshman level coursework.

Here is an interesting article on this very subject.

Yes, sustaining high graduation percentages is important, but quality is more important even if this results in lower four-year on-time graduation rates.

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