Gulf County - With as much as one-third of high school students dropping out of school, educators put a high value on student retention. A local school district is setting a great example for others to emulate. For the second time in four years, Gulf County ranked as the number one district in Florida last year for graduation rates.
96% of Gulf County's high school seniors graduated in the class of 2010. Not only did that help rank Gulf County as the best in the state, the district also ranked second for fewest drop outs, with just .02%. Superintendent Tim Wilder says these numbers are extremely important, especially in the face of a tough job market.
"The economy is horrible right now, and the folks without those degrees sometimes suffer, so 4% not graduating versus ten or twenty; that's huge," Wilder said.
With a 19% African-American student population, Wilder made it a priority to bridge the achievement gap between minorities and white students, when he became superintendent six years ago. For the second year in a row, Gulf County's African American drop out rate is zero. Wilder credits what he calls a great staff from top to bottom taking part in child studies. He also credits smaller class settings.
"Through these child study team meetings and...the small environment where there's a name and a face. It's somebody's son or daughter, somebody's granddaughter or grandson, somebody's nephew or niece. It's not just a number at small schools," Wilder said.
The state's graduation rate was 79% this past year; about a 2.5% improvement.