Alabama dropout ages changes from 16 to 17

By: Vanessa Araiza Email
By: Vanessa Araiza Email

We've always been taught that reading is knowledge and for many school officials they say it's the link to getting a high school diploma.

"It's really set by third grade, if they're experiencing reading difficulty when they're leaving third grade they're not likely to recover from that," said Michael Lenhart.

That is why Ozark City Schools Superintendent Michael Lenhart agrees with Governor Bob Riley's decision to raise the dropout age. Last week, the governor signed a bill upping the age to dropout from 16 to 17.

School officials say one of the critical times for a student is when they are in the third grade, the moves that they make at that time could affect if they graduate or not.

Dale County Schools Asst. Superintendent James Brooks says, "When kids leave the third grade we want them reading on third grade level and I think that’s going to help with that problem."

Currently, both Ozark city and Dale County schools are below the 90-percent graduation rate. But they are hopeful the new law will increase the number of students graduating.

"Changing the drop out rate to 17, I think you will see over a period of time you will see an increase," said Brooks.

Superintendent Lenhart says, “The last thing that we want to do is have a child drop out of school and so the harder we make it for them to do it the better it's going to be for the children and eventually for our country."

Even though both Ozark city and Dale County schools have not made the 90-percent graduation rates, they have seen slow increases on the amount of students that get their high school diplomas.

Under the new law, if a student does drop out he or she must attend an exit interview with a school administrator and a parent or guardian.

They also have to sign a document showing they understand the consequences of leaving school early.

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