The number of top rated high schools in Florida is dropping, according to new data released Thursday.
[DOWNLOAD: Full school grades, county by county ]
Grades released by the Florida Department of Education showed that the number of A-graded schools dropped from 49 percent last year to 36 percent this year.
Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said a key reason for the drop in A-rated schools was that the grading formula was changed to make it more difficult to earn a top grade.
DOE officials say six high schools in the Central Florida area increased a grade letter. In Brevard, Seminole and Lake counties, Eau Gallie High School, Winter Springs High School and Lake Minneola High School increased their grades from a B to an A.
In Orange County, three schools improved one letter grade: Dr. Phillips High School and University High School went from a B to an A, and Colonial High School improved from a C to a B.
14 of 19 non-charter high schools got an A or a B grade this year. Seven schools dropped a letter grade. The lowest-graded school is Jones High School, which dropped from a B to a C, but technically is graded even lower. A state law prevents the school from dropping more than one letter grade in a year.
In Volusia County, six of the 10 county schools received B grades and four received C grades. According to Volusia County Schools, three schools would have received an A rating but were penalized due to not testing the required 95 percent of students or not graduating enough number of at-risk students.
Twenty-eight Central Florida schools went down a grade, according to the report.
Palm Bay Magnet Senior High School in Brevard County and Gateway High School in Osceola County would have dropped two grades if not for the state rule that prevents a school from decreasing more than one letter grade.
The department tried to downplay the drop in the number of A-rated schools in its official release. Instead, the department highlighted that the state's overall high school graduation rate edged up slightly this year.
In Central Florida, Sumter County's graduation rate improved to 83.4 percent, an increase of nearly 5 percentage points over the last year.
Statewide, graduation rates increased to an 11-year high of 76.1 percent, an increase of 0.5 percent over last year and a rise of nearly 17 percentage points since 2003-04, according to the DOE.
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