Historically, Florida educators have calculated the high school graduation rate based upon their own state criteria. This year, however, Florida will be required to calculate graduation rate based upon federal criteria.
No surprise, the new calculations result in significant differences.
The federal rate is tougher because it counts as graduates only students who earn a standard diploma within four years. It doesn't count students with disabilities who earn "special" diplomas. It also doesn't allow schools to wipe from their books students who transferred to adult education programs. Instead, those students count against a school because they are not graduates.Using the new federal formula, Florida's high school graduation rate is much lower. One county, for example, saw a 14.5% decrease.
Under the formula Florida had been using, students who earn a "special" diploma counted as graduates. The state also deleted from the calculations anyone who transferred to an adult education program — typically students with weak academic records in danger of dropping out.
[Add.] Here is a tangentially-related story demonstrating the difference between earning a diploma after successfully completing four years in high school versus being given a diploma with "modified" education requirements. Congratulations to Molly, the basset hound.