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Alabama’s High School Graduation Ratecomment (0)

February 21, 2013

By Jim Williams


In January the U.S. Department of Education released estimates of the high school graduation rate for all 50 states. These estimates, based on information reported by state education agencies, showed that the percentage of Alabama students who graduate from high school on time continues to increase but remains below the national average.  

High school graduation is an important milestone for individuals, and it is a key to the economic development of states as well. The Census Bureau estimates that, on average, a high school graduate earned about $10,000 a year more than a dropout in 2009. States with large percentages of high school dropouts inevitably have relatively low personal income. 

For example, in 2009 Alabama’s rank among the 50 states was 46 on the percentage of adults with a high school diploma and 42 on per-capita income. 

Increasing the high school graduation rate will make the state more attractive and improve the economic well-being of its residents.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 43,166 students graduated from Alabama’s public high schools in the 2010 school year. Four years earlier, an estimated 60,080 students had been enrolled as first-time ninth graders. The graduation rate, based on these figures, was 71.8 percent.

The national graduation rate, calculated in the same way, was 78.2 percent. Only six states had graduation rates lower than Alabama’s — Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and South Carolina. It is noticeable that five of these were southeastern states. Our only neighbor with a high graduation rate was Tennessee, which graduated an estimated 80.4 percent of its students on time.

White students in Alabama graduated at a rate of 75.8 percent, compared to a national average of 83.0 percent for that subgroup. Black students graduated at a rate of 65.4 percent, compared to a national average of 66.1 percent for that subgroup.

While Alabama’s graduation rate remains low, the state is gaining ground. The percentage of graduates has increased every year since 2003, and the gap between Alabama and the national average has shrunk from 12 to eight percentage points over that time.

The economic future of Alabama depends to a large degree on the success of our schools in producing graduates who are prepared for higher education and the world of work.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE — Jim Williams is executive director for the nonprofit, nonpartisan Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama. Jim may be contacted at jwwillia@samford.edu.

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