Florida high school graduation statistics hailed and deplored
By Associated Press
Published November 17, 2005
TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Jeb Bush hailed an increase in Florida's high school graduation rate as evidence of progress Wednesday, but a Democratic lawmaker called it "spin" to hide a last-place ranking among the 50 states.
Figures released by the governor's office and the Department of Education show Florida had a 71.9 percent graduation rate in 2004-05, but a national ranking based on different data put it at 56.8 percent.
The state's data show Florida's graduation rate increased 0.3 of a percentage point from 71.6 percent the previous year and is 11 percentage points higher than 1998-99, when Bush took office.
The graduation rate and more students taking advanced courses and college entrance tests "demonstrate that Florida has created learning environments grounded in student achievement and aspiration," Bush said in a statement.
Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, contrasted the state's figures with statistics compiled by Morgan Quitno Press showing the 56.8 percent rate.
"This is just a spin effort," Gelber said. "Under this administration we have slipped from 45th to 50th" on the Morgan Quitno list.
Russell Schweiss, a spokesman for Bush, who was on a trade mission in Europe, replied that the state's method has received national recognition for its accuracy.
"The calculation is based on real comprehensive data and provides a true four-year graduation rate," Schweiss said in an e-mail.
The Morgan Quitno list compares the estimated number of 2005 high school graduates with ninth-grade enrollment in the fall of 1999. That excludes students who have obtained special diplomas or passed General Educational Development tests, both counted in the state's method.
DOE also tracks students moving into and out of the state and transferring to private schools, also left out by Morgan Quitno.
The Morgan Quitno approach gives "a misleading and unfair picture because it doesn't account for everybody," said DOE spokeswoman Jennifer Fennell.