Alabama gets high marks in a new report from America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises and Johns Hopkins University’s Everyone Graduates Center. The report, Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic, offers positive signs that the nation and Alabama are making progress in reducing the number of students who drop out of high school.
The report shows Alabama is battling the dropout crisis in many ways. Alabama ranked 4th from the top in gains to statewide graduation rates between 2002 and 2008. The Alabama graduation rate increased from 62.1 percent in 2002 to 69.0 percent in 2008, a 6.9 percent increase – triple the nationwide increase. The U.S. graduation rate increased from 72.6 percent in 2002 to 74.9 percent in 2008, a 2.3 percent increase.
Also, in the state, the number of schools with higher dropout rates decreased by 26 – down from 71 in 2002 to 45 in 2008. This was the third largest decrease nationwide. Nationwide, the number of schools with higher dropout rates fell by 261 – from 2,007 in 2002 to 1,746 in 2008. Experts say targeting these high schools for improvement is a critical part of turning around the nation’s dropout rate. Most of the decline in schools with higher dropout rates – 216 of the 261 – occurred in the South.
“This report illustrates Alabama as a top example in the nation in combating the dropout crisis. Progress like this is only possible by providing the right kind of programs, training, resources and people to work with students and help them to succeed,” said Joe Morton, State Superintendent of Alabama. “Programs like FIRST Choice, Credit Recovery, Graduation Coaches, the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI), the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI), and Alabama Connecting Classrooms Students Statewide (ACCESS) are catalysts for change in Alabama and will continue to help decrease the dropout rate.”
More Alabama progress noted in the report:
- The number of struggling readers in K-3 decreased more than 30 percent.
- Gains on the 4th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test were the greatest in the nation in 2005 and sustained in 2007.
- Between 2004 and 2008, the number of African-American and low-income students taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams increased almost three-fold and the number achieving passing scores in each case more than doubled.
The report highlights four case studies of success – Alabama; Tennessee; Richmond, Indiana; and New York City. Specific elements of success that were noted in Alabama’s case study include: immense progress in enhanced training for teachers; focus on strengthening student performance in reading, math and science; and more supports provided to keep students in school. Also, graduation coaches were mentioned as a key part of the fight to combat dropouts.
Some common elements of success include: strong leadership with clear graduation rate goals; multi-sector collaboration guided by data; commitment to innovation and continuous improvement; technical assistance for evidence-based solutions; and raising expectations, improving policies and increasing student supports.
Researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Common Core of Data (CCD) of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Researchers used two indicators to determine students’ progress through high school – the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR) and promoting power, both calculated from grade-level enrollment numbers and, in the case of AFGR, district-level data on the number of diplomas awarded.
For the complete report, please visit http://www.americaspromise.org/Our-Work/Grad-Nation/Building-a-Grad-Nation.aspx. The report was released by Gen. Colin Powell, USA (Ret.), founding chair, America’s Promise Alliance (the Alliance) and Alma J. Powell, the Alliance’s current chair.