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Local high school graduation rates above state average

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MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- When President Barack Obama announced graduation rates this week, he had reason to celebrate.

"We recently learned that America's high school graduation rate went up to 83 percent, which is the highest on record," he said. That's good news."

The state of Florida fell below that average -- with a 77.9 percent graduation rate for the 2014-2015 school year. But in Sarasota County, graduation rates have been above state average since 2011, with the district pulling a 79.2 percentage rate last year.

In Manatee County, since 2011, the district's graduation rate has jumped double digit percentage points, according to Manatee County School District deputy superintendent Cynthia Saunders.

"Our district over the last span of time has improved about 13 percentage points," she said. "The last two years, we've gone up about two percent each year."

Former Manatee County teacher Linda Boone said it's a continuous push for districts to make sure kids have the necessary tools to graduate.

"There are districts that are concerned with the lowering of graduation rates. It does play into how we are graded by the state."

So programs are put in place -- such as the district's acceleration program, or "Smart Horizons," to help seniors get on the right track to graduate.

"We have added about 12 different options for seniors and we're hoping that one of them will meet their needs," Saunders said. "Until we have 100 percent of our students graduating, we haven't met our goal."