Winter Haven High Graduation 1

Polk County Public Schools’ graduation rate jumped to 86.5 percent last year — a record high — even as seniors faced unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic.

The district’s latest graduation rate was a 5.3 percentage point increase from the previous year (81.2 percent in 2018-19), according to the Florida Department of Education.

“I am so proud of our teachers, staff, students and their families,” said Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd. “The Class of 2020 was forced to remotely finish classes, and instructors found creative and innovative ways to teach from afar. PCPS employees worked tirelessly to provide meals, technology and other resources to keep students striving for success. You can’t help but be inspired by their toughness, tenacity and dedication.”

Polk County’s 14 traditional public high schools had an average graduation rate of 91.6 percent in 2019-20, an increase of 2.8 percentage points from the previous year (88.8 percent in 2018-19). Many of these traditional public high schools outperformed the statewide graduation rate of 90 percent.

“We saw some huge jumps in our schools’ graduation rates, which is really exciting,” Byrd said. “However, we must temper our excitement with a realistic perspective. The pandemic continues to disrupt and impact our schools. In addition, state exams were waived for the Class of 2020 due the pandemic.

“With state exams once again in place, we could see a graduation rate drop for next year,” she continued. “Nevertheless, we remain committed to keeping students on track and helping them achieve academic success. There is still much work to be done.”

For school-by-school rates, visit or