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Polk County's Graduation Rate Reaches New Record High Despite Pandemic

(Editor's Note: Lake Wales High School is not included in this report, since it is part of the charter system and not considered a traditional Polk high school. Its graduation rate will be reported separately.)

Polk County Public Schools' graduation rate jumped to 86.5 percent last year - a new record high - even as seniors faced unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic.

The district's latest graduation rate was a 5.3 percentage point increase from the previous year (81.2 percent in 2018-19), according to the Florida Department of Education.

"I am so proud of our teachers, staff, students and their families," said Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd. "The Class of 2020 was forced to remotely finish classes, and instructors found creative and innovative ways to teach from afar. PCPS employees worked tirelessly to provide meals, technology and other resources to keep students striving for success. You can't help but be inspired by their toughness, tenacity and dedication."

Polk County's 14 traditional public high schools had an average graduation rate of 91.6 percent in 2019-20, an increase of 2.8 percentage points from the previous year (88.8 percent in 2018-19). Many of these traditional public high schools outperformed the statewide graduation rate of 90 percent.

Additional highlights from the latest graduation data include:

- Polk's graduation rate for black students rose to 86.7 percent and 85.7 percent for Hispanic/Latino students, compared to each group's rate of 78.7 percent the year prior.

- Over the last five years, the district's graduation rate has risen by 14.7 percentage points.

"We saw some huge jumps in our schools' graduation rates, which is really exciting," Byrd said. "However, we must temper our excitement with a realistic perspective. The pandemic continues to disrupt and impact our schools. In addition, state exams were waived for the Class of 2020 due the pandemic. With state exams once again in place, we could see a graduation rate drop for next year. Nevertheless, we remain committed to keeping students on track and helping them achieve academic success. There is still much work to be done."

Latest graduation rates for Polk County's traditional public high schools with 2019 rates listed in parentheses for comparison:

- Auburndale High - 89.1 percent (87 percent; +2.1)

- Bartow High - 95.3 percent (92.4 percent; +2.9)

- Fort Meade High - 97.3 percent (94.9 percent; +2.4)

- Frostproof High - 84.9 percent (87.7 percent; -2.8)

- George Jenkins High - 97.3 percent (96.2 percent; +1.1)

- Haines City High - 88.9 percent (84.9 percent; +4)

- Kathleen High - 91.5 percent (79.7 percent; +11.8)

- Lake Gibson High - 97.7 percent (92 percent; +5.7)

- Lake Region High - 92.7 percent (89.6 percent; +3.1)

- Lakeland High - 92.5 percent (93.3 percent; -0.8)

- Mulberry High - 94.7 percent (95.5 percent; -0.8)

- Ridge Community High - 88.8 percent (88.1 percent; +0.7)

- Tenoroc High - 80.6 percent (80.1 percent; +0.5)

- Winter Haven High - 90.9 percent (86.7 percent; +4.2)

Additional graduation data is available on the Florida Department of Education website at


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