JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Florida's federal graduation rate rose by an unprecedented 3.9 percentage points in 2012, moving to 74.5 percent of students graduating from high school within four years. 

At well over 80 percent, Nassau and St. Johns counties scored the highest graduation rates in the state.  Duval County's rate rose 4.42 percentage points to nearly 68 percent.

According to data released Friday by the Florida Department of Education, this is the largest single-year increase the state has seen in the federal graduation rate since 2003. The rate has climbed 18 percentage points overall since then.

"Floridians want to know that they have access to high-quality education that prepares them for college and careers," said Gov. Rick Scott. "The increase in graduation rates speaks to the effort and commitment of students and educators and shows that our state is moving in the right direction."

NE Florida counties graduation rate table In Duval County, the schools with the largest increase in graduation rates were Ribault High School, which saw an increase of 21.96 percentage points from the prior year, A. Philip Randolph Academies of Technology, which saw an increase of 16.55 percentage points, Raines High School, which saw an increase of 14.61 percentage points, and Andrew Jackson, which saw an increase of 9.84 percentage points. Additionally, Paxon School for Advanced Studies was recognized for having 100 percent of its students graduate in 2012.

"My thanks and congratulations to Florida's teachers, parents, and school leaders for their dedication and hard work to ensure more students achieve academic success and graduate with a diploma," said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. "We are committed to making sure students are ready to take the next step and pursue college or a career."

Florida's African-American students showed the biggest increase over the last five years, rising from 50 percent graduating in 2008 to 63.7 percent this year. Hispanic students also performed at significantly higher levels, with 72.9 percent of students graduating in 2012 -- up from 59.8 percent in 2008 -- an increase of more than 13 percentage points.

Florida's federal graduation rates chart Beginning in 2011, federal regulations required states to calculate a four-year graduation rate that includes only standard diplomas. Previously, Florida's official graduation rate included both standard and special diploma recipients. Students who earn a special diploma, a GED-based diploma, a certificate of completion, or have been retained and are still in school are not included in the federal graduation rate.

Florida is noted for having some of the most rigorous graduation requirements in the country. In some states, students who qualify for a standard diploma in their state's accountability system would not meet Florida's requirements.

The graduation rate measures the percentage of students who graduate within four years of their first enrollment in ninth grade. The rate is calculated for an adjusted cohort of students, a group of students on the same schedule to graduate, taking into account those who enter or exit the group. The federal graduation rate is used in calculating high school grades and allows comparison among states.

Florida’s 2012 single year dropout rate of 1.9 percent of students is unchanged from the previous year and a decrease of close to 1 percentage point since 2008.

For more information and to view state and district graduation and dropout data, visit the Florida DOE's accountability services site.