Alabama graduation rate 40th, but beats Ga., Fla.
By PHILLIP RAWLS, Associated Press
Published 1:49 p.m., Wednesday, November 28, 2012
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s high school graduation rate ranks it 40th among the states, but education leaders say they are aiming to make it among the nation’s best by 2020.
The U.S. Department of Education released new state graduation rates that put Alabama at 72 percent for the 2010-2011 school year. That’s better than neighboring Florida and Georgia, but lower than Mississippi and Tennessee.
The new rates are the first where each state used the same methodology to track students’ progress. Alabama’s old rate for the prior school year had been 86 percent, said Malissa Valdes-Hubert, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.
The U.S. Department of Education said Alabama was one of 26 states reporting a decrease using the new procedure. It involved tracking students for four years starting in the ninth grade to see if each one graduated on time. Alabama’s old method counted students who stayed in high school for a fifth year to get their diplomas and special education students who received occupational diplomas.
Federal education officials said the new rates can’t be compared with the old ones because states used so many different methods to calculate them. But the new figures can be compared among states.
Iowa led the country at 88 percent, while the District of Columbia rated lowest at 59 percent. Among Alabama’s neighboring states, Tennessee had one of the highest rates in the country at 86 percent. Mississippi measured 75 percent, Florida, 71 percent, and Georgia, 67 percent.
“By using this new measure, states will be more honest in holding schools accountable and ensuring that students succeed,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a news release.
The state Department of Education’s new Plan 2020 sets a goal of having all students finish high school ready for a career or college. Its goals include increasing the graduation rate to 75 percent in 2016 and 85 percent in 2020.
Valdes-Hubert said students in danger of dropping out usually have problems with attendance, behavior and course failure in the ninth grade. She said schools are working to address those problems early and keep the students in school. They include peer mentoring and after school programs.
She said schools have also started credit recovery programs that are encouraging students to keep working toward a degree. The programs allow a student who fails a portion of a course to retake that portion and pass that portion without having to retake the entire course.
The new method of calculating the graduation rate was recommended by the National Governors Association. In addition to calculating a state’s overall rates, it provides breakdowns for groups. Alabama’s graduation rate for whites was 78 percent, while African Americans measured 63 percent, Hispanics and Latinos 66 percent, and Native Americans 80 percent.