Alabama’s Graduation Rates Are Going Up Because Teachers Are Asking For More Grant Money

Alabama's Graduation Rates Are Going Up Because Teachers Are Asking For More Grant Money

MONTGOMERY, AL— At Thursday’s meeting of the Alabama State Board of Education, education leaders said that more Alabama high school students are finishing.

Officials are hoping that the changes will get more money from politicians in the state.

The percentage of Alabama high school graduates in 2023 was 90.04%, which is 1.84% higher than the percentage of graduates in 2022. During the same time frame, the College and Career Readiness Rate went up by five percentage points, from 79% in 2022 to 84% in 2023. This rate shows how many students meet one of several readiness indicators.

The main reason for these changes was grants for College and Career Readiness. The Alabama Legislature first gave $10 million to these grants in the supplemental education budget for fiscal year 2023 and then $15 million in the education trust fund budget for fiscal year 2023.

State Superintendent Eric Mackey said, “Of all the things we do, this is the one I’m most proud of because the policy came from the board, the Legislature paid for it, our staff made it work, and we can already see the numbers going up.”

Teachers are now asking for an extra $17 million in the 2024 budget for education.

Mackey said, “The CCR grants came from a discussion among board members around this table. If we’re going to require all of our students to have CCR to graduate, we need to help our schools get there.”

“Let’s ask the Legislature for money, but let’s not give it to everyone at the same rate. Let these people work with the school district to figure out what works best there, and let’s give more money to the places that need it the most.”

Alabama officials are working on bills to spend almost $11 billion on education, including the budget for the Education Trust Fund for the fiscal year 2025 and other bills to do the same. The extra bill that was passed by a House committee last week includes the $17 million that was asked for for the CCR grant program.

Sean Stevens, the state leader of curriculum for the ALSDE and one of the people in charge of the new grant program, said that the rise in graduation rates may not seem like much, but when you add up the 41,890 high school graduates in 2023, that 1.83% rise means 766 more graduates.

Stevens said, “We want every student in Alabama to graduate and become a successful citizen. You can see by the increase—1.83% may not sound like much, but it’s huge to go from 88.21% to 90.04%.”

“That’s because of the work of our school districts as well as good record keeping and making sure no one gives up on students.”

Melissa Shields, who works for ALSDE as an assistant state director of student learning, said that the grant program had helped in more ways than just raising the rates of graduation and College and Career Readiness.

Shields said, “When we talk about CCR, this isn’t just for high schools. We have opportunities for students K–12, and we’re really trying to build a pipeline with our students so they can get all kinds of industry credentials.”

“We’re checking the data to see what jobs are out there in your area.” We know that many of our communities want to keep their smartest students, so we’re looking into what job tech opportunities we can offer.

The CCR grants are given directly to school districts, with priority given to districts with a 15-point or bigger gap between their graduation rate and their College and Career Readiness rate. Some schools receive as much as $400,000 in grants.

Stevens said that grant money has been used for many things, such as college tours, business and industry trips, test prep for both students and teachers, and scholarships.

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