Hendry County’s Grad Rates Plummet to 4th Lowest in Florida
The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) released federal graduation rates on January 13th. As of the close of business on Friday the Board has not been provided with a report from the administration, so I have compiled the following information from the FLDOE’s website. https://www.fldoe.org/accountability/data-sys/edu-info-accountability-services/pk-12-public-school-data-pubs-reports/students.stml
FLDOE reports that Hendry County’s graduation rates experienced the largest decrease in the state, dropping from 90.4% in 2020 to 86.6% in 2021, and further spiraling down to 75.7% this year.
While CHS’ and LHS’ combined performance was 85.8%, their graduation rate was diluted by the poor performance of two online schools affiliated with the Hendry County School District and for which the superintendent and Hendry County School Board are responsible.
One of the online schools is the Hendry Online Academy. Students who have committed a behavior infraction that would qualify them for expulsion have the option of enrolling in the online educational platform in lieu of participating in an expulsion hearing. Hendry Online Academy’s graduation rate was 67.9%.
Digital Academy of Florida (DAOF) is an online charter school that enrolls students who reside throughout Florida. The Hendry County School District collects an administrative fee to serve as the host district for this online school. Regardless of where the enrolled students reside, their academic data and graduation rate of 64.8% is included with Hendry County’s outcomes, in turn driving down the collective graduation rate and overshadowing the outcomes achieved by Hendry County’s resident students attending brick and mortar schools. Furthermore, an online school (and the district hosting) doesn’t receive funds (or administrative fees) for students who fail to complete.
A county’s graduation rate is one of the public information points that site selectors employed by businesses seeking to start up, expand, or relocate take into consideration. Site selectors are ultimately seeking communities for their clients with a workforce that can help grow their business. A county with a graduation rate of 75.7% does not fare well in this selection process.
It begs the question of whether the administrative fee the district receives to sponsor a charter school that seemingly poorly educates students residing in other counties is worth receiving the lowest FTE funding in the state for Hendry’s resident students in addition to the economic stigma placed on Hendry County. It also begs the question of why the HCSD contract with DAOF was recommended for approval prior to graduation rates being released and why the school board still hasn’t received ANY information from the district administration about Hendry’s performance.