The graduation rate for the Mobile County Public School System is continuing to surpass goals set by administrators, rising this year to 86 percent with 3,445 students receiving diplomas in four years.
The results were reported by the Alabama Department of Education last week and school officials made an official announcement Jan. 11. The rate is up from 84 percent this time last year and both exceed the current national average of 82 percent.
Mobile County Schools Superintendent Martha Peek called the scores “another exciting benchmark” for the system.
“The 86 percent reflects the sincere hard work of the schools and the students,” Peek said. “We want to keep at the forefront that our ultimate goal is to [be at] 90 percent by 2017.”Peek announced the new goal of 90 percent by 2017 last year, revising one MCPSS officials originally set to have a graduation rate of 80 percent by 2020. School officials set that goal after rates fell to just 70 percent in 2012, which is also the last year the state required students to take the Alabama High School Graduation Exam in order to graduate.
A “high-stakes” test, all students had to pass the graduation exam to receive a diploma before 2013, and since the exam was removed as a requirement, ratings have improved at the state and local levels.
Last year, Alabama reported a statewide graduation rate of 86 percent — an improvement from 80 percent in the 2013-14 school year. Numbers from 2015 haven’t been released yet, but officials with the ALSDE said they would be “soon.”
Malissa Valdes-Hubert, a public information manager for ALSDE, said without the requirement of 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.”
Since 2014, all high school juniors have been required to take the ACT college entrance exam, which the state pays for at around $2.7 million. That’s something Valdes-Hubert said helps measure student achievement, but also helps students prepare for college by sparing them the cost of the test.
Also in 2012, public schools around the state began phasing in the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards — an Alabama-specific set of benchmarks using elements of Common Core. Those standards came with increased rigor and the change was a transition for students and teachers alike.
While the change has been blamed by some for lower scores on standardized tests like the ACT and the ACT Aspire, Valdes-Hubert told Lagniappe it hasn’t markedly affected the graduation rate.
“The graduation rate has gone up over the past couple of years, and it is continuing to increase,” she said. “We attribute that to many things, like the fact that a lot of districts are now investing in and promoting graduation coaches to help students graduate on time.”
That “on time” designation is also more important now than it used to be. In previous years, graduation rates were determined only by the number of students who received a diploma.
Today, schools in Alabama are measured by a “four-year, on-time graduation rate,” which simply refers to students finishing high school in the standard four years and with their appropriate age group.Among the schools in Mobile County, there was some variance in the graduation rates, but more than half met or exceeded the national average and all 12 recorded individual graduation rates that exceeded 80 percent.
Baker High School in West Mobile had the highest rate of graduates at 93 percent, while Williamson High School had the lowest at 81 percent.
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