Hernando County's graduation rate rose by almost 3 percent, similar to the trend of graduates completing high school statewide.
According to the Florida Department of Education, the school district's graduation rate increased by 2.7 percentage points from 71.5 percent in 2010-11 to 74.2 percent
Statewide, the graduation rate increased by 3.9 percent — the biggest increase since 2003 — from 70.6 to 74.5 percent.
The graduation rate measures the percentage of students who graduate within four years of their first enrollment in ninth grade, according to the Department of Education press release. The rate is calculated following students' schedule to graduate while taking into account those who enter or exit within those four years.
In February, the state changed the definition of a high school graduate — the biggest change being the elimination of special education diplomas from the calculation.
The result was that Hernando County's graduation rate automatically dropped by almost nine points from what the state initially reported.
Once the new formula was applied to prior years, the district also went from being in the low- to mid-70 percent graduation rate range between 2006-07 and 2010-11 to struggling in the high-50 percent to high-60 percent range.
In the past five years, the district and the state have flip-flopped on which has the higher graduation rate — typically staying within 1 percent of the other.
Superintendent Bryan Blavatt said he's pleased to see the district's graduation rate increase, although more work needs to be done to see that more students graduate. He added he prefers the district's graduation rate to be higher than the state's.
"Until we're at 100 percent, we've got to keep working at it," Blavatt said. "But from my own experience, I think the principals have done a really great job over the last year along with certain guidance counselors looking into students and assisting them in becoming successful."
Meanwhile, Blavatt said, in order to increase graduation rates, educators and school officials will likely have to focus on reaching out to students earlier to ensure they have the resources to graduate.
Even then, he said 100 percent graduation rate is a far-off goal.
"There will always be students who are academically talented and skilled, but because of family circumstances, they have to drop out," Blavatt said. "It's the saddest thing in the world."