Published: Nov 18, 2010 9:44 PM EST
Updated: Nov 18, 2010 6:44 PM EST

TALLAHASSEE – Governor Charlie Crist Thursday announced Florida’s graduation rate soared to new heights this year, continuing a five-year trend of increases. According to results released today by the Florida Department of Education, the state’s graduation rate climbed more than two-and-a-half percentage points to 79 percent. Included in the increases was a 3.5 percentage point increase for African-American students, a 3.2 percentage point increase for Hispanic students and a 2.3 percentage point increase for White students.

“Florida’s improved graduation rate clearly shows that our reform efforts are making a difference in our schools, and most importantly, for our students,” Governor Crist said.  “I applaud our students, parents, teachers and school leaders for their hard work and significant improvement.”

“I am supremely proud of our teachers and administrators for the phenomenal efforts they are making to ensure more of our students leave school with a meaningful, vital credential,” said Education Commissioner Dr. Eric J. Smith. “Although these increases have been substantial, we must recognize that the road of improvement remains long, and only through continued hard work and a commitment to reform can we hope to travel it quickly.”

Continuing past trends, Florida’s graduation rate progress is being driven largely by minority students. The results indicate that since 2005-06, African-American and Hispanic students increased their graduation rates by 13.1 and 13.3 percentage points, respectively, as compared to an 8 point increase for White students.

In September 2009, the Florida State Board of Education (SBE) approved the state’s new formula which incorporates graduation rates into the grading of high schools. The graduation rate approved by SBE uses a formula recommended by the National Governors Association (NGA) which includes standard and special diplomas but excludes all GEDs. The NGA rate replaces Florida’s previous calculation which included all GEDs.

To ensure a more accurate calculation of the graduation rate, Florida employed new, more accurate data collection methods beginning with the 1998-99 school year. Since then, the department has based its graduation rate on data that follows every single student from ninth grade to graduation. Florida currently stands alone nationally in its practice of compiling and following individual student records to determine a true, four-year graduation rate

Mirroring the progress seen in graduation rates, Florida’s dropout rate also declined for a fifth-straight year to a record low of 2 percent. This is a decrease of 0.3 percentage points compared to last year and 1.5 points since 2005-06. Compared to last year, African-American students decreased their dropout rate by 0.5 percentage points and White students decreased by 0.3 percentage points. The dropout rate for Hispanic students did not change.

For more information about Florida’s 2009-10 graduation and dropout rates, visit www.fldoe.org/eias/eiaspubs/default.asp.