By Gary Lloyd
MONTGOMERY — Numbers recently released from the Alabama State Department of Education show that efforts to keep students in school are gaining traction as the state’s high school graduation rate continues its upward climb.
The high school graduation rate is now 80 percent, up from 75 percent a year ago. It was 72 percent two years ago.
State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice said for every 1 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,” Bice said. “More students graduating from high school means more students going to college, starting careers, and becoming productive, tax-paying citizens. 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 on 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 the plan, 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 and 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. “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 an integral component to keeping students in school is helping them identify their skills and abilities and realize the potential for their future careers. Under Alabama’s PLAN 2020, all students will enter ninth grade prepared with a four-year plan that addresses their individual academic and career interest needs based on the results of a career assessment, which is taken in eighth grade.
“From teachers and counselors to parents and mentors, we all have a vested interest in making sure our students’ complete high school prepared and eager to start college or their career,” Bice said. “Completing high school with a quality education and with the ability to compete with students from any other state or country should be common-place. We expect that of our public education system; we expect that of ourselves.”
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.