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Gilchrist County has the highest graduation rate in the state

Gilchrist County led the state with a 95.4 percent graduation rate for the past school year, well above the statewide rate of 76.1 percent, according to statistics released by the Florida Department of Education on Thursday, Dec. 18.

Gilchrist County exceeded their 2012-13 graduation rate of 89.7 percent and reported a higher graduation rate than neighboring school districts. Dixie County’s graduation rate was 87.8 percent, Alachua County was at 72.2 percent, and Levy County had a 69.1 percent graduation rate.

In other good news, preliminary high school grades were also released last week and both Trenton High School and Bell High School earned an A under Florida’s school grade accountability system.

Earlier in the year, school grades were released for the elementary schools and both Trenton Elementary School and Bell Elementary School received a B grade.

Following the release of the high school grades and the graduation statistics, Superintendent Rob Rankin issued the following statement, “We are extremely pleased that the hard work of our teachers and students is continuing to pay off.  Although the bar has been raised for students over and over again, the schools in this small community continue to thrive because of high expectations, continuous improvement efforts, great teams of people who care, and huge amounts of community support.”

State Board of Education rule mandates that if at least 75 percent of schools earn an A or B, the amount of points needed for a school to earn a school grade is increased in the following year. Since 83 percent of high schools earned an A or B in 2012-13, in accordance with State Board of Education rules, the grading scale was adjusted upward for high schools in 2013-14. This also marks the final year that school grades will be calculated using the current formula. Next year, schools will be graded with a new formula that includes scores from the new Florida Standards Assessment, which is meant to test students on the new Florida Standards teachers are using this year, which are based on Common Core.

Gilchrist County School Superintendent Robert Rankin praised a team effort that he says is directly responsible for student success on multiple levels.

Speaking specifically to the district’s graduation rate of 95.4 percent, Rankin said, “High school graduation has been linked with more personal income, better employment, improved health, and more.”

Statewide, Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said the 76.1 statewide graduation rate is the highest in the past 11 years and 0.5 percent over last year.

When statistics come down from the state, Rankin said it is important to remain focused on the students, not on the schools.

“Although we are super proud of our schools and A school grades, it is vital that we keep students in school and graduating.”

By Carrie A. Mizell