Continuing an upward trend, Alabama announced an increase in its statewide graduation rate to 89 percent on Thursday — an announcement that came three days after Mobile County Schools revealed a positive increase locally.
Alabama is currently outlining its education curriculum and objectives through PLAN 2020, the state-developed program that has allowed the state to bypass the federal standards outlined in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Among other things, PLAN 2020 established a goal of 90 percent graduation by the year 2020, and with the release of the newest rates, it appears Alabama is only a single percentage point from hitting that goal ahead of schedule.
As in the case with the Mobile County Public School System, which reported an 86 percent graduation rate earlier this week, Alabama’s graduation rate has climbed steadily every since a 72 percent rate was recorded in 2012.
That’s also the same year the state removed one of the previous requirements to complete high school — passing the Alabama High School Graduation Exam. A “high-stakes” test, all students had to pass the graduation exam to receive a diploma prior to 2013, and since the exam was removed as a requirement, ratings have improved at the state and local levels.
Malissa Valdes-Hubert, a public information manager for the Alabama State Department of Education, previously told Lagniappe that without the graduation exam, students today complete high school based on their “credit and classwork” alone.
“We always had that before, we just also had the graduation exam,” Valdes-Hubert said. “It wasn’t a real show of proficiency, which is why we replaced it with the ACT. It’s not a high-stakes test for us, but it does still give us a look at student proficiency.”
Announcing the new rates, the ALSDE said there was “no singular issue that addresses increases high school graduation and no silver bullet fix.” State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice said identifying barriers that impede student success, individualized solutions and greater support and encouragement at school and in the home all factor into successful educational outcomes.
Regardless of why the number of graduates has increased, the ALSDE said it has a significant impact on students. According to their statistics, each additional percent increase translates to approximately 600 additional graduates — an average of 10,000 more annual graduates than just a few years ago.Governor Robert Bentley expressed his support for the efforts that he said helped achieve the increases over the past four years, and said it was a “testament to hard working teachers, principals and other school staff who encourage and help our students meet their education goals and graduate.”
Bice also said he was also pleased with the results, but added that Alabama still has work to do to keep the rates up and make sure those graduating are leaving high school prepared.
“These graduation numbers are a huge indicator that Alabama students and teachers are working harder, and doing so with higher academic standards than were previously used,” Bice said. “This most recent graduating class completed most of their high school coursework under the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards; standards that are more aligned with the expectations of business and industry, as well as colleges and universities.”Continuing, Bice said graduation rates are just one of many challenges public education faces today and only one component of PLAN 2020. Bice said the state was also prioritizing increasing the proficiency for all students and closing the achievement gap between racial and socioeconomic subgroups.
“We have a long way to go. But we are encouraged by movement in the right direction that shows Alabama’s best days in public education are ahead,” Bice said. “It is in the best interest of our state’s education, economy and social structure to keep moving forward along the path that has been laid for public education in Alabama.”
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