By Victoria Langley
December 15, 2006 6:40 p.m.
The average graduation rate statewide is 71 percent, down a percent from last year.
Forty four of Florida’s 67 school districts saw their graduation rates drop last year. High school principal Rocky Hanna says the challenge is meeting the needs of the kids who aren’t college bound, and getting them excited about learning.
Rocky Hanna said, "What we’re up against is finding kids and finding why they’re not interested in school and making it relevant for them."
The numbers are discouraging. For the first time in seven years, Florida graduation rates, which weren’t great to begin with, have fallen even more and the dropout rate has risen.
Graduation rates range from a high of 93 percent in affluent martin county to just 44 percent in Gadsden County, half an hour from the Capitol.
The state Department of Education is now assembling a task force that will include students to come up with ideas for keeping kids in school and on track. But Commissioner John Winn thinks students are just getting lost in some of the state’s bigger high schools.
John Winn said, "They have to feel like somebody cares about them in the school personally. They can not feel anonymous. Anyone who feels anonymous is not going to connect. It’s true with adults and true with young people."
The state’s expecting its new dropout prevention task force to come back with recommendations for the legislature this spring.
State education officials are hoping a new requirement that will have high school students choose a major area of study will help them feel more connected in school.