Mobile County Public School System officials this morning announced its 2014 student graduation rate was 82 percent, an increase from last year’s 75 percent.

According to MCPSS Superintendent Martha Peek, the initial goal was to see the four-year, on-time graduation rate reach 80 percent by 2020. However, today’s announcement “is just a milestone” that puts the Mobile County school system six years ahead of the community-wide initiative.

“It’s an effort from everyone,” she said.

The final calculated percentage means 82 percent of the freshmen that entered high school in 2010 graduated in the spring of 2014, but that number does not include an additional 6 percent, or about 180 students, who either graduated in December 2014 or who are still enrolled in school and working toward graduation.

While the increase represents a steady climb from 64 percent in 2011 and 70 percent in 2012, the school system has already put another goal in place – to achieve a 90 percent graduation rate by 2017.

According to numbers released by the school system, Blount High School made the biggest jump from 64 percent in 2013 to 79 percent in 2014, followed by Williamson High School with 67 percent in 2013 compared to 82 percent in 2014. Baker carries the highest graduation rate with 91 percent followed by Citronelle High School with 88 percent.

Citronelle High School Principal Thomas Campbell, who also previously served as principal at Lott Middle School, said he was not surprised with numbers released during the monumental graduation rate announcement, and he added that he is confident the school system will meet its next goal.

“I know the type of kids that went through and the hard work that’s been going on in the feeder patterns from kindergarten on up,” he said.

Furthermore, Peek said the initiative is not just about moving students through school just to hand them a diploma, but it is to ensure they are all well prepared for the future.

“Not only do they have a diploma in hand, but students must be certified [and] ready to graduate,” she said.

In order to achieve this level of certification, Peek said students could earn a benchmark score on the ACT college assessment, a qualifying score in advanced-placement college-level programs, a benchmark score in the job skills assessment ACT WorkKeys, a business industry certification or present enlistment papers for the military.

“That along with a diploma says they’re college, career-ready and they graduate ready for the next step in life,” she said.

Further, 7,300 students this year earned “workforce credentials,” Peek said.

With only 11 students away from reaching an 83 percent graduation rate, Peek said all of the MCPSS schools improved their graduation rates with principals “working tirelessly” to achieve the goal through several system-wide steps starting in every elementary school, where students have access to “rigorous and innovative” pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade programs.

After elementary schools, students in middle school begin career planning in sixth grade, and MCPSS can provide intervention for those students who may be at risk of dropping out by utilizing Data Warehouse tracking.

Once in high school, Ninth Grade Academies ease the transition into high school by requiring all students to work with a school counselor and develop a plan of study for their high school careers.

Additionally, MCPSS have “Multiple Pathways to Graduation” aimed toward keeping students engaged in learning. These pathways include Signature Academies, which provide hands-on learning opportunities in various career fields, access to career- technical education programs, distance and online learning and opportunities to earn college credit through AP courses, International Baccalaureate and dual enrollment.

“The graduate rate is a culmination of everything we do from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade,” Peek said.