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INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - The Florida Department of Education announced in late December that Indian River County improved its high school graduation rate by almost five points, increasing from 87.1 percent in 2016-2017 to 92 percent in 2017-2018. This exceeds the state’s graduation rate by almost 6 percentage points.

For the first time, all three county high schools are above a 90 percent graduation rate.

Indian River Charter High School had the highest graduation rate, 96.3 percent, followed by 93.2 percent at Vero Beach High School and 91.1 percent at Sebastian River High School.

The improvement was largest at SRHS, which rose 7.4 percent.

“The significant increase in the graduation rate at Sebastian River High School was the result of students' hard work and commitment to completing all requirements and the entire SRHS staff's attention to the needs of those students,” said Todd Racine, who was SRHS principal for the 2017-18 school year. “Many systems were put into place to remove barriers of students who face academic and social-emotional issues that can distract them from achieving the goal of graduation. Teachers consistently created motivational rewards for those reaching goals, after school and weekend programs for course recovery were implemented, graduation requirement data was constantly monitored, and the organizational planning, communication, and mentoring philosophy of our Graduation Coaches were instrumental in supporting the overall student success.” 

“We provided targeted assistance to students who needed additional support and it certainly paid off,” said Superintendent Mark Rendell. “I want to congratulate all three high schools for this success, as they are all above 90 percent for the first time. More importantly, this is a significant achievement not only for our high schools, but for all of our schools, as the graduation rate measures the work of the entire school district. We cannot thank our teachers, students, and families enough for their hard work and perseverance.”

One statistic provided by the district but not discussed in the celebratory news release is the continuing and widening performance gap between white, black, and Hispanic students.

In 2016-2017, the white graduation rate was 89.9 percent compared to 79.7 percent for black students, a difference of 10.2 percent. In 2017-2018, the white graduation rate rose to 95.8 percent while the black rate rose only to 81.9 percent, increasing the gap to nearly 14 percent.

With Hispanic students, that disparity was similar, though not as dramatic. In 2016-2017, the Hispanic graduation rate was 85.1 percent, 4.8 percent behind the white graduation rate. In 2017-2018, the Hispanic graduation rate rose to 88.2 percent, but the gap with white students grew to 7.6 percent.

Merchon Green, the Chairperson of the School Equity Committee, questioned the validity of even that slight rise in black graduation rates.

“They were so excited to announce that 82 percent of black students graduated,” Ms. Green told Hometown News. “How is that possible when such a small percentage of them can read on grade level? How are you pushing out that many students to not be able to be employed, to be either a problem to their parents or a burden to society, or someone that’s going to end up in the system?”

While not addressing the racial disparity head on, School Board Chair Laura Zorc did express a desire to increase the graduation rate further.

“Every year the graduation rate is important, but to be able to hit this historic record, it just shows that it is a priority of this administration and the board to make sure that every student graduates,” Ms. Zorc said. “I am very proud of the students, teachers, family, and community partnerships within our district and all of their hard work. We will not become complacent with these numbers. We will not settle until we hit a 100 percent graduate rate.”

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Indian River County Reporter


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