Grad rates hold steady Citrus schools sit at 78.9 percent

The bottom line: Despite a tenth-of-a-percent drop from the previous year, Citrus County schools’ graduation rate is good.

The graduation rate of the 2016-17 school year was 78.9 percent districtwide. Citrus High School’s rate was 87 percent, Crystal River High’s was 82.1 percent, and Lecanto High’s was 86.2 percent.

The state Department of Education (FLDOE) calculates graduation rates based on cohort — a group of students on the same schedule to graduate. If a student does not graduate within four years of beginning high school, they count against the graduation rate.

“The Citrus County School district always strives to do what is best for kids. We recognize that some students need additional time beyond four years to earn a diploma or may take an alternative path, like earning a special diploma, GED, or a non-Florida diploma via a contracted private school” said Amy Crowell, the district’s director of research and accountability. “Even though these students hinder the graduation rate because they are categorized as nongraduates at the time graduation rates are calculated, they do reach a level of success that will allow them to enter college or a career path.”

Legislation passed during the 2017 session changed the way the state calculates graduation rates. One provision required students who transfer to a private school — including online programs — with which the district has a contractual relationship, be counted as nongraduates. This change was expected to negatively affect graduation rates statewide.

Another provision enabled the state to count exceptional education students to earn a standard diploma through modified coursework, rather than receive a special diploma and be counted as nongraduates. This change could increase graduation rates.

Had the state calculated graduation rates in the same way as the previous year, Crowell said, Citrus’s rate would have risen above 80 percent.

Crowell emphasized the district’s 78.9 percent graduation rate does not mean that 21.1 percent of students in the cohort used for the calculation are dropouts. 15.1 percent were considered nongraduates in the following categories:

1.3 percent received special diplomas;

0.4 percent received GED-based diplomas;

2.4 percent received certificates of completion;

7.2 percent were still enrolled in school; and

3.8 percent were withdrawn to contracted private schools.

That leaves 6 percent of students who entered high school in the 2013-14 school year as dropouts — students not enrolled in any educational program and who did not earn a diploma in four years of high school.

“The graduation rate is used to evaluate us and grade us, whereas we probably should be focusing on, ultimately, student success — whether it takes them four year or five and a half years,” said David Roland, the district’s director of area schools and secondary education. “The key is that they’re going to have a diploma that allows them to be productive citizens.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Carly Zervis at 352-564-2925 or carly.zervis@chronicleonline.com.

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