As we conclude this year’s Dropout Prevention Awareness Month (October), it’s important to consider both the progress our area and state have made in improving graduation rates, as well as the disturbing position Florida still maintains regarding this important statistic.
Graduation rates among First Coast public high schools have risen each of the last four years, with Nassau and St. Johns counties enjoying among the highest rates in Florida.
Nationwide, Florida still doesn’t stack up. Although our graduation rate has increased more than 5 percent since 2012, Florida retains one of America’s worst records for preventing dropouts, ranking 41st in the nation.
Communities In Schools of Jacksonville (CIS) is a local nonprofit that has spent three decades working with at-risk students in our area and studying what causes students to drop out. We know that students living in poverty in areas of income inequality are the most at risk for dropping out of school. These students often believe that going to college is unrealistic. They often don’t recognize the point of staying in school when they could be working.
We also know what that flawed logic costs not only students, but also our community at large. We know that people without high school diplomas earn an average of $10,000 less than graduates. We know the unemployment rate for dropouts is 50 percent higher. And, we know the incarceration rate for dropouts is 63 times higher.
Fortunately, we also know what works in helping at-risk students stay on track for graduation. Positive relationships with adults who care, strong after-school programs, tutoring and mentoring: These are the tools we use to change a course that some kids feel is inevitable. We know these strategies work because almost every at-risk senior CIS Jacksonville worked with last year graduated.
We applaud all those education professionals and volunteers who have helped make our progress possible, and we encourage everyone to remember how far we need to go before we can truly be proud of where we are as a state.
Dane Gilbert is the director of case management at Communities In Schools of Jacksonville (CIS). He previously worked in public schools as a teacher and principal. For more information on Gilbert and his work, visit CISJax.org.
2015-16 Florida Department of Education (FDOE) cohort graduation data as of 12/12/16
Source: 2015-16 Florida Department of Education (FDOE) cohort graduation data as of 12/12/16