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As Hillsborough County Public Schools students take exams this week, seniors are one step closer to graduation and have some big shoes to fill. The state released the 2015-2016 graduation rates and Hillsborough County Public Schools’ graduation rate has increased to 79.1%, up 3-percentage points from last year. The increase is a direct result of the tenacity exhibited by all in our District. From students, to administrators, teachers, guidance counselors and all of those who serve in support roles to ensure our students are on track to graduate, tenacity is the common bond.
Shortly after his appointment, Superintendent Eakins and the School Board created a District Strategic Plan where raising the graduation rate continues to be a top priority. The 2015-2016 graduating class boasted 595 more graduates than the previous year for a total of 11,612 students graduating. This number came as no surprise to Superintendent Jeff Eakins who, along with School Board Members, was thrilled to share the news. “We have been very intentional in Hillsborough County Public Schools. Our teachers, administrators and staff have come to know each student individually and put them on a navigational path that best meets their needs,” shared Eakins. For those students who did not meet the testing benchmarks through the traditional FSA (Florida Standards Assessments), their path was guided through other options that would satisfy the FSA graduation benchmark, thus leading to a diploma. Teachers and staff identified these students early in the academic year and encouraged them to take test prep classes and to take the ACT, SAT or PERT (Postsecondary Education Readiness Test) that would provide them a concordant score to meet the graduation benchmark. A total of 1,048 students benefitted from this opportunity and using a concordant score received their diploma. The support and assistance from the best student advocates, our teachers and staff, coupled with tenacity have made this a life changing event.
Hillsborough County Public Schools is all about changing the lives of its students. When Superintendent Eakins reflects on the 3-percentage point increase, or the 595 more students who graduated, he thinks of the number of lives that have been changed for the better because they now have a diploma. “These 595 students have greater opportunities for post-secondary education, for better jobs and better wages, and more opportunities to support a family in the future. These 595 kids will benefit us all by growing the economy,” said Eakins. Recent graduates from HCPS have gone on to post-secondary institutions and occupations contributing to the growth of our economy and for this we are proud.
High school students in Hillsborough County Public Schools receive support from a team of educators who deliver more than instruction. This team is proactive and works alongside the student while they look to their future. This team helps the child navigate the path to their future. HCPS teachers are experts in their field who care about their students, providing guidance and allowing students to see they have a future in this community.
The recently released information shows Hillsborough County Public Schools is successfully closing the achievement gap between our African American, Hispanic and white students. The graduation rate among Hispanic males rose from a rate of 67.6% to 72.9% in one year, a 5.3 percentage point increase. African American females also saw an increase in the graduation rate to 74.6% up from a 68.5%, a 6.1 percentage point increase. And the graduation rate among African American males increased from 58.6% graduate rate to 64.7%, a 6.1 percentage point increase.
Beginning to close the achievement gap allows HCPS to focus on the goal of reaching a 90% graduation rate by the year 2020. While there is still plenty of work to do HCPS is certainly on track to reach 90% by 2020. With tenacious teachers, administrators and staff who believe all students can be successful, Hillsborough County Public Schools will continue to do what they do best -- change the lives of students!