Student Exodus

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Graduation has come and gone for students in Jefferson County, but unlike past years just a handful of students are crossing the stage with their diplomas.

The county has been losing students to Leon County and private schools. School officials say they have some of the same programs as Leon County. They say some students are just not making to grades to move on.

Some 50 students in Jefferson County graduated Friday, but in the last few years that number has been fluctuating. An average of 64 to 72 percent of potential graduates accepted their diploma. Though it’s still higher than the state average, some say passing the FCAT is a major stumbling block for some students.

Jefferson County class of 2005 valedictorian Shaundala Brown says, "The FCAT determines whether you pass or not, and everybody is not a good test taker and I know everybody has the potential to earn a diploma."

In fact, only eight percent of 10th grade students in Jefferson County scored a level three and above on the reading portion of the FCAT, compared to 47 percent of Leon County students.

Now Leon County school officials are lending a helping hand to help Jefferson County students.

"Our education of our students should not depend on county lines or district lines so we work together to help our counties and we welcome a way to help our colleagues in surrounding counties," said Leon County School Superintendent Bill Montford.

Jefferson County School Superintendent Phil Barker says they've implemented mentoring programs, but realize they still fall short of making the grade, and next year they'll put an aggressive plan in motion.

"There's more of a focus to monitor their progress in early increments. Are they achieving the criteria that set forth, and you constantly monitor and test them every few weeks."

Barker says they were able to get funding to hire four reading coaches to help students do well on the test.