Tampa Bay's four school districts all reached a significant milestone last school year: achieving graduation rates over 80 percent. It's believed to be the first time Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties all surpassed that threshold, a regionwide mark of success. That is welcome affirmation of the efforts by administrators and teachers who have made it a priority to help more kids graduate from high school.
Beneath the broad figures are still more reasons to celebrate. Hillsborough's rate of 82.9 is nearly 10 points higher than it was four years ago and a 3.8-point jump over last year. All area districts except Pasco topped the state graduation rate, and Pasco still improved by 2.3 percentage points.
Both Hillsborough and Pinellas made progress in closing the achievement gap between white and minority students, a key benchmark for ensuring student success at every level. Pinellas, in particular, still has a long way to go. The graduation rate among Pinellas black students was 69.3 percent, compared with 86.9 percent for white students.
Raising graduation rates and closing the achievement gap don't happen by accident. It takes concentrated, data-driven effort and considerable resources to get more kids — especially poor and struggling students — into a cap and gown. The latest graduation rates in Tampa Bay are a testament to that hard work.