A new state law this school year is helping officials keep students in the classroom and on the path towards graduation.
Last May, Alabama state lawmakers raised the age a student is allowed drop out of high school from 16 to 17 years old.
School officials and state leaders hope this new law will continue to improve the state's graduation rate and more importantly, make for a better future for students.
“If you want to increase your chances at success you have got to stay in school,” says Northview High School principal Ron Snell.
And to keep Alabama’s high school students in the classroom, governor Bob Riley
signed a new law last spring making it illegal for students 16 and under to dropout.
“It gives us an extra year to encourage kids to stay in school.,” says Dothan High School guidance counselor Celeste Morehead.
Effective this school year, students who wish to dropout of high school must first meet certain criteria.
In addition to being 17 or older, if a student wants to drop out, both the student and at least one parent or guardian are required to sit for an exit interview with a school administrator.
“When they come in here they have to come here with a plan. They cannot come to me and say and I decided to drop out this morning, it's not going to work,” says Morehead.
Morehead says maturity plays a role in decision-making.
“You don’t know at 16 years old if you want to be an adult or you want to be a student. That's a big decision for a 16 year-old,”
Snell says they exhaust every option to prevent a student from dropping out.
He says last year, his school had an 87% graduation rate.
“Because ultimately we're going to lose some kids but what we want to make sure is that if we lose them, they're aware of what their opportunities are,”
Snell believes it's all about setting yourself up for success later in life.
“The overwhelming majority of jobs available in the Wiregrass area and in the country require a minimum of a high school diploma,” says Snell.
“Your opportunities for credentials and advancement are certainly diminished if you dropout,” he adds.
Students who dropout of high school will also have their driver's license suspended by the state.