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Florida leads the nation on Hispanic high school graduation rates

For the second year in a row, Florida is leading the country on Hispanic high school graduation rates.

According to the recently-released 2013 Diplomas Count report, Florida’s Hispanic graduation rate was 77.1 percent. For the rest of the nation that number is markedly lower, with 68.1 percent of Latinos graduating high school.

The new numbers of Latino students graduating are a double-digit increase since 2000. The report, which was put out by national publication Education Week, was based on 2010 data.

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“This by no means indicates that our work is finished,” Florida Education Commissioner Bennett said in a statement. “But it is a clear sign that by working together with a clear focus, we can all help ensure that every student has a chance to succeed in college, in a career and in life.”

The state’s overall graduation rate was 72.9 percent, slightly below the national average of 74.7 percent.

Deborah Santiago, co-founder and vice president for policy and research at Excelencia in Education, says that Florida is successful in getting Latinos to graduate high school for a number of reasons. She partially attributes the success to core leadership in the Sunshine State.

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“Leadership in Florida is paying attention to graduation rates. They have good data on students and they use it as a diagnostic to see what they can do better,” she says.

Santiago also explains Florida’s rates by looking at the state’s demographics. She believes that because immigrants in Florida tend to come from college educated families, they are more likely to graduate high school and continue on with their education.

“Many Latinos in Florida tend to be immigrants from more educated populations,” Santiago says. “Some of the Latino population there come from Cuba and Venezuela. They are more likely to have a college education so their kids are not the first generation and there’s a strong education component that is already there.”

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Still, the Diplomas Count study showed that there was a lot of work to be done bridging graduation gaps for Latinos across the country. High school graduation rates for  Hispanic male students was at 63 percent.

“Rates of Latino graduation still need to be improved relative to others,” Santiago says. “There is still a gap. So we can celebrate Florida’s rising rates but we also have to recognize that.”

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