A Citrus County School Board member is concerned new legislation passed in June 2017 will lead to lower graduation rates.

  • Concern regarding portion of HB 7069, which passed earlier this year
  • Participants in alternative programs will not be counted toward county's graduates
  • Diminished graduation numbers may reflect poorly on district schools

School board member Thomas Kennedy said many of the high school students here in Citrus County have a hard time passing the tests they need to graduate. Many of those students having difficulties participate in alternative programs to meet graduation requirements.

But now he said those students won't be counted as graduates.

"All students in Florida need to have viable opportunities to earn a high school diploma," Kennedy explained.

That's why Kennedy said he's concerned about part of HB 7069, which was signed into law over the summer.

Kennedy says in Citrus County, students that struggle with the state standardized test required for graduation have been able to transfer into an online program to finish high school and still be counted as transfer students, but still on record as graduating.

Now, he said the new legislation means those students that complete alternative programs associated with the district will be counted as non-graduates.

Kennedy said that will lead to about forty to sixty students who will now not be classified as graduates each year. It's something he said is not reflective of what students have been able to accomplish thanks to online programs.

"Not all students graduate the same way,” Kennedy said.

“About 50 percent of the time the students did not need to use that option. A lot of times they became so confident in their test taking because they knew they had that safety net that they were successful in passing the Florida State tests," he added.

He also said the lower rates give an inaccurate reflection of the school when school grades come out.

"It gives the illusion to some people that we're not being successful with our students, because they're not getting credit for that," Kennedy explained. "My concern is that maybe unintentionally the legislature is telling us, 'don't do these programs' and these are programs that are individualized for our students -- these are programs that are successful for some of our students."

Kennedy hopes there will be new legislation in the future that will give district students more options to graduate, such as basing it on the students' individual portfolios rather than standardized tests.

Graduation rates for all districts across the state should be released before the end of the year.