MONTGOMERY - Numbers recently released from the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) show that efforts to keep students in school are gaining traction as the state’s high school graduation rate continues its upward climb.
With a high school graduation rate of 80 percent, up from 75 percent just one year ago, and up from 72 percent just two years ago, Alabama is moving in the right direction. State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice said for every one percent increase in the graduation rate, about 600 additional students graduate from an Alabama high school. In the past two years, approximately 4,800 more students have not only graduated from high school, but graduated on time.
“Not only is this increase significant for our students, but it is significant for our state’s long-term economic impact as well. More students graduating from high school means more students going to college, starting careers, and becoming productive, tax-paying citizens,” Bice said. “High school graduates are much less likely to be unemployed or underemployed, less likely to receive public assistance, and less likely to end up on the wrong side of the criminal justice system. Alabama’s climbing graduation rates are good news for the entire state.”
In 2013, the State Board of Education embarked upon the mission of PLAN 2020, Alabama’s framework for education reform, part of which includes making sure students graduate from high school on time and prepared for college and/or a career in the 21st century. As part of PLAN 2020, the state’s objective is to reach a graduation rate of 80 percent by 2016 and 90 percent or more by the year 2020. With the graduating class of 2012-13 reaching 80 percent of students graduating on time earlier than expected, Bice said he is encouraged by the state’s progress but realizes there is much work to do.
Part of that effort involves addressing the reasons why students drop out of high school and providing support and encouragement. Bice said school systems around the state are already employing innovative as well as practical tactics to combat what he considers to be one of Alabama’s education priorities. “We’ve seen school systems use their people, funding, time, and other resources in creative ways to meet the needs of students contemplating dropping out,” Bice said.
He continued, “Students leave school for a lot of reasons. As leaders in education, it is our responsibility to finds ways to keep our young people in school.”
Bice said these numbers have particular significance because more than two years ago, Alabama, along with every other state in America, started transitioning to the National Governors Association (NGA) methodology for determining graduation rates. The NGA model is a four-year cohort formula that now provides a more consistent view of America’s high school graduation rate.
Prior to the collective use of the NGA model, each state used individual methods of determining the rate, making it difficult to accurately compare graduation rates from state to state. The NGA model is now the standard, allowing states the ability to uniformly measure their annual progress. The NGA graduation rate model tracks students as a class from the ninth grade through graduating from the twelfth grade. Those who do not complete high school in four consecutive years with their cohort (class) are not figured into the state’s graduation rate.