Polk County Public Schools’ graduation rate improved to 81.2 percent last year — a new record.
The district’s latest graduation rate increased from 80.4 percent in 2017-18, according to the Florida Department of Education.
“I’m pleased that we have continued to improve upon our graduation rate with another record-breaking performance in 2018-19,” said PCPS Superintendent Jacqueline M. Byrd. “The data reflects the hard work and long hours invested by our teachers, staff, students, families and volunteers. But the true meaning of our graduation rate is that more students in Polk County are successfully completing their K-12 education every year — better preparing them for the challenges and opportunities of life after high school.”
Polk County’s 14 traditional public high schools had an average graduation rate of 88.8 percent in 2018-19, up 2.3 percentage points from 86.5 percent the year before. The majority of Polk’s traditional high schools improved their graduation rates last year, and most outperformed the statewide graduation rate of 86.9 percent.
“I would like to praise our schools and district staff for their tremendous effort,” said Tami Dawson, PCPS’ regional assistant superintendent of high schools. “Everyone must work together as a team to raise our graduation rate. We have to be very prescriptive with students who struggle; we must look at the individual student and figure out what they need to succeed. Finally, kudos are definitely in order for students themselves, who put in the hard work necessary to earn their walk across the stage at graduation.”
Schools that showed significant gains include: Lake Region High, which jumped 9.8 percentage points to 89.6 percent; Ridge Community High, up 5.4 percentage points to 88.1 percent; Mulberry High, up 5.1 percentage points to 95.5 percent; and Tenoroc High, which increased 3.9 percentage points to 80.1 percent.
PCPS principals celebrated the good news and expressed gratitude to their staff and students:
- “Our staff has been strategically monitoring data and ensuring students are on track for graduation,” said Lake Region High Principal Maryjo Costine. “We hold student conferences and consider different options to make sure we provide opportunities for students to be successful. We have continued to raise our graduation rate over the past three years, with a significant jump this past year. All staff members are involved in our progress.”
- “The improvement of Ridge Community’s graduation rate has been a whole-school effort, with an intentional focus on interventions and follow-up,” said Ridge Community High Principal Stephen Ely. “We keep the success of our students at the forefront, and designate staff members to monitor grades and attendance of students who may otherwise fall through the cracks. Teachers and counselors work together when students need guidance and reminders to focus on the finish, instead of distractions.”
- “We’ve been working with teachers and identifying GPA issues as early as possible, doing things like providing afterschool tutoring, and making sure students are taking the courses they need to recover credits,” said Tenoroc High Principal Jason Looney. “I’m proud of my students and my staff; it’s a really good feeling. It’s a huge accomplishment for our parents too, because they’ve been working to make sure our students stay on track. All of our stakeholders have been working on this.”
Additional highlights from the latest graduation data include:
- Polk County’s graduation rate for ESE (Exceptional Student Education) students was 77.2 percent in 2018-19, up from 65.9 percent the year before.
- The graduation rate for black students was 78.7 percent, rising from 77.5 percent the year prior.
- Florida’s new graduation rate of 86.9 percent was up 0.8 percentage points from the year before — the same rate of improvement as PCPS.
Graduation rates for Polk County’s traditional public high schools: 2019 vs 2018
- Auburndale High 87.0 percent (86.0 percent; +1.0)
- Bartow High 92.4 percent (88.9 percent; +3.5)
- Fort Meade High 94.9 percent (98.8 percent; -3.9)
- Frostproof High 87.7 percent (87.2 percent; +0.5)
- George Jenkins High 96.2 percent (97.0 percent; -0.8)
- Haines City High 84.9 percent (83.8 percent; +1.1)
- Kathleen High 79.7 percent (79.2 percent; +0.5)
- Lake Gibson High 92.0 percent (89.6 percent; +2.4)
- Lake Region High 89.6 percent (79.8 percent; +9.8)
- Lakeland High 93.3 percent (93.5 percent; -0.2)
- Mulberry High 95.5 percent (90.4 percent; +5.1)
- Ridge Community High 88.1 percent (82.7 percent; +5.4)
- Tenoroc High 80.1 percent (76.2 percent; +3.9)
- Winter Haven High 86.7 percent (87.2 percent; -0.5)
Additional graduation data is available on the Florida Department of Education website at https://tinyurl.com/y98aqx4u.