Keys graduation rate beats the state average for the first time

Monroe County schools improved their overall graduation rate by 3.1 percent and slightly exceeded the state’s rate this past year.
Monroe County schools improved their overall graduation rate by 3.1 percent and slightly exceeded the state’s rate this past year. AP file

For the first time, the high school graduation rate in the Florida Keys passed the state’s average.

The Keys rate was 86.4 percent. Florida’s average for the 2017-2018 school year was 86.1 percent, according to state figures released last week.

Last year’s rate for Monroe was 79 percent, while the state’s was 82 percent.

Closing that 3 percentage-point gap in the overall graduation rate was the Monroe County School Board’s No. 1 priority, said Chairman Bobby Highsmith, who called this year’s results outstanding.

“They are the product of concerted effort and lots of hard work from our students, teachers, parents and administration,” Highsmith said in a statement. “And although these results are excellent, there is still much room for further improvement, for which we will all continue to strive.”

District officials will share details about Monroe’s graduation rates at the School Board’s Jan. 22 meeting, a school district spokeswoman said.

Monroe’s results mean 86 students did not graduate the 2017-2018 school year, down from 127 students the previous year.

The graduation rate measures the percentage of students who graduate within four years of their first enrollment in ninth grade.

In sharing the results, Florida’s Department of Education pointed out that its 82 percent graduation rate does not mean nearly 14 percent of students dropped out of school.

Of the statewide figure, 3.5 percent dropped out and 10.4 percent are still enrolled in school, attending adult education, earned a certificate of completion, earned a GED-based diploma or withdrew to attend private school.

Miami-Dade’s rate was 85.4 percent and Broward’s was 84.3, both higher than the previous year.

Monroe, however, continued to lag behind the state when it came to black and Hispanic students graduating, reports show.

Overall, 92 percent of white students graduated — the state’s average was 89 percent — while the results for blacks and Hispanics were 77 and 80, respectively.

Last year in Monroe, 86.5 percent of white students earned diplomas while 68 percent of Hispanics and 73 percent of blacks did the same.

The state’s 2017-2018 graduation rate for Hispanics was 85 percent and its rate for blacks was 81 percent.

Gwen Filosa covers Key West and the Lower Florida Keys for and the Miami Herald and lives in Key West. She was part of the staff at the New Orleans Times-Picayune that in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Indiana University.