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Educational Attainment

Northeast Florida High School Graduation Rates

Education is one of the great social equalizers. It is highly correlated to health status and economic success. Experiments abound to improve the quality and outcomes of local education, including renewed interest in job skills preparation. Despite women leading in high school graduation rates and college enrollment, they are significantly underrepresented in programs that prepare them for high-skill, high-wage jobs.

Pre-Kindergarten: Key To School Readiness

Florida was an early adopter and is one of only seven states to provide free, voluntary half-day pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds. All evidence points to the power of early childhood education -- especially for low income, dual language learners and special needs children – to spur later achievement.

However, the state is 36th in the nation in preschool funding on a per child basis. This low funding level limits the number of providers and keeps wages very low. Women who make up the majority of pre-school staff are adversely affected by the low wages. Families who are seeking affordable, high quality early education and childcare also are negatively impacted.

Elementary School: Early Indicators

Fourth-grade reading and math proficiency are used as indicators of future success. Northeast Florida girls demonstrate higher reading proficiency than boys, and about the same math proficiency as boys at 4th grade. By 8th grade, the proficiencies for girls and boys have declined significantly. Girls in Northeast Florida, on these indicators, exceed the state average for girls.

Middle School: Experimenting

Single-sex classrooms remain a subject of debate as well as experimentation. While still early for meaningful measurements, results in two Duval County middle schools with classrooms just for girls show a positive impact on behavior with fewer suspensions and disruptions. Single sex schools in other Florida cities report improved academic results as well. The two in Duval are Young Women’s Leadership Academy at Eugene Butler School and the charter school, Waverly Academy.

High School: Girls’ Graduation Rates Lead

The percentage of Northeast Florida students graduating from high school in 2015 improved in each of the Northeast Florida counties with girls leading the way. The rate for girls in Northeast Florida also exceeded the national rate. Rates for female graduates in Baker and Duval counties were significantly higher than in prior years. Superintendents of Northeast Florida school districts attribute the improvements to district-wide emphasis on closing the gap between black and white students, and the emphasis on career academies (small, high-school level learning communities, sometimes called “schools within schools,” that focus on specific job preparation).

Career & Technical Education: Learn To Earn

Opportunities to prepare students to work in advanced manufacturing or highly skilled crafts are expanding in Northeast Florida thanks to some creative partnerships. Duval County Public Schools, for example, partners with local colleges and corporations in several programs that include early college classes, internships, apprenticeships and job placement progression.

The growth of career academies and technical education is being driven by the need for more skilled workers, who earn more than the unskilled. In the next decade, 60 percent of all Northeast Florida jobs will require at least certification or a two-year college degree.

Traditionally, females are concentrated in career preparation courses that provide training for low-paying job categories. It will be important that these programs make a concerted effort to encourage girls and women to participate in preparation for higher wage jobs. For example, the new Aviation Academy at Ribault middle and high schools aims to help fill the gap in ethnic minority and female candidates for pilot positions.

Higher Education: Higher Lifetime Earnings

With the exception of St. Johns County, the current female population in Northeast Florida with a bachelor’s degree or higher lags the national average. However, females now account for the majority of college students locally and nationally. Enrollment at Florida State College at Jacksonville is 60 percent female, at the University of North Florida 54 percent female, and at Jacksonville University 55 percent female. Women also have made significant progress in degree attainment.

Increasing women’s interest in STEM academic tracks is important for women to be competitive in the high-demand, high-wage jobs of the future. While the rate of women pursuing degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields is increasing and now stands at 20 percent nationally, local rates are lower. At JU and UNF, women represent from 4 to 17 percent in several engineering and computing majors.

Most evidence suggests that making STEM-related education more attractive to girls needs to begin early. It requires different, more hands-on/applied ways of teaching STEM subject matter, improved counseling of girls from middle school on, focused recruiting efforts by colleges, and the opportunity to have access to female role models working in STEM fields.

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Here To Help

Joanne Cohen, J.D.

Joanne Cohen, J.D.
Vice President,
Philanthropic Services
The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida

904.356.4483
JCohen@jaxcf.org

In Her Own Words

Heather Downs

"WGA's research findings highlight the unique issues women and girls face in Jacksonville. It also illustrates the continued need for community action and support." - Heather Downs, Associate Professor of Sociology, Jacksonville University

Scott

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