Program increases Duval County graduation rates

Students benefit from 'Learning to Finish'

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The risk of not graduating is a sad reality for hundreds of Duval County students. But the school district says it's providing new pathways through an initiative five years in the making that's already producing what it calls dramatic results.

April Lindsey is one student who's on track to graduate after years of struggling in school.

"It's a shock that this is even happening to me right now," an emotional Lindsey said. "I never imagined this. I never saw myself being like this. It feels really good."

At 18 years old, she fell a few grades behind, at times feeling desperate enough to quit school.

"I had it in my head the whole time, like, 'You're not going to do it, dude. You're not going to graduate. Just sit back and drop out and do something else,'" Lindsey said.

Instead, she chose to be part of an initiative called Learning to Finish, a public-private partnership the district says has dramatically increased graduation rates in Duval County.

"Raising the floor for all students, but raising the ceiling for students who can go on and take college-level work while in high school," Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals.

The progress is evident. Research indicates in the last five years the graduation rate jumped about 11 percentage points to 71.2 percent.

"Now, we are not where we want to be yet, but that is significant growth, particularly since Duval County has the highest graduation requirements in the whole state," Pratt-Dannals said.

The district hopes to continue pushing forward with help from community partners, as successful students like Lindsey plan for the future.

"After I graduate, I want to go to (the University of North Florida) for two years and transfer to Florida State University for two more and get my bachelor's degree in photography and investment," Lindsey said.

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