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While white and black student graduation rates rose last year in Monroe County schools, the Hispanic graduation percentage fell last year. There are many factors, but one could be budget cuts in certain English as a second language courses being offered.

The overall trend looks positive across Monroe County’s graduation rates. “As the state is getting better, so is our district,” said Executive Director of Assessment and Accountability David Murphy, who was tasked with tracking the graduation rates over the past five years. “In terms of closing the gap, we haven’t done that yet, and that is one of the frustrations.” Since the 2012-13 year, Monroe County has dragged behind the state by an average of about 3 percent.

Last year, 27 students were true dropouts. However, students still enrolled, those who received a certificate of completion, received a GED or a special diploma are still included in the non-graduate rate. Together, those students number an additional 100.

Murphy reported a district success with closing the gap between white students and black students in overall district rates and emphasized the increase in black student graduation district-wide, with Key West High School’s percentage helping overall. Murphy cited the ESE student population in the district as an area of concern for graduation rates.

“I am going to reassess my request for 100 percent graduation rate; what I really want to see is 100 percent positive outcome because I understand we will never get 100 percent of the kids to graduate with what the state deems a high school diploma,” said school board member Mindy Conn. Murphy said this would mean no “true” dropouts and having the kids be able to test positively to graduate.

On a positive note, since 2013 the large disparity in graduation rates between white, black and Hispanic students has gotten smaller. The gap in 2013 was 19 percent between white and Hispanic, and 37 percent between white and black. Today, the difference is 13 percent Hispanic and 18 percent for black students in comparison to white students.

Conn asked what could be done now to help the graduation rate in future years. “We can’t guarantee that if we add resources now that the numbers would jump in 2020,” Murphy said. “It takes time, students need to be addressed over time, and we can’t pick students that come into our system at any time.”

Positive outcomes can also be found at all three schools when it comes to at-risk student graduation rates from 2015. At Coral Shores the graduation percentage for those students rose from 25 percent to 50 percent, at Marathon it went from 41 percent to 81 percent and at Key West it rose from 42 percent to 58 percent.

While white and black student graduation rates rose last year in Monroe County schools, the Hispanic graduation percentage fell last year. There are many factors, but one could be budget cuts in certain English as a second language courses being offered.

In other school news:

  • Districtwide free school lunches post-Hurricane Irma have ended.
  • The school year is tentatively scheduled to begin on Aug. 15, 2018.
  • KWHS Band’s 17-year-old uniforms need to be replaced. The quote to replace them is $67,000.
  • Sugarloaf employee housing task force discussed public-private partnerships to move forward with a housing project at Sugarloaf School. Conn requested updates of the project at each meeting.
  • The school board is considering creating a formal district-wide homework policy that would include input from teachers, principals and parents.

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