Ala. to use new formula to measure dropout rate

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - New figures show only 65 percent of Alabama's students graduate from high school in four years with a regular diploma. School officials announced Thursday the state is switching to a new formula to calculate its graduation rate.

Under the old method, 86 percent of students would be listed as graduates for the class of 2009. Under the new method, that number drops significantly to 65 percent.

One difference is that the new formula only counts graduates as students who receive a high school diploma within four years. Previously, the state counted graduates as those who received diplomas within six years.

State Superintendent Joe Morton told the State Board of Education the new method is more accurate and will help the state in the long run.

Despite the fact that Alabama is seeing a continual trend of increasing graduation rates and the lowest dropout rate on record, State Department of Education (SDE) officials warn Alabama has more work to do.

In 2005, governors of all 50 states signed the National Governor's Association (NGA) Graduation Counts Compact to implement a common formula for calculating their state's high school graduation rate. All states are on track to begin publicly reporting their data using the common formula in 2012. In response to the NGA compact and new regulations for NCLB, the SDE is releasing its first 4-year cohort graduation rate for the graduating class of 2009.

This number represents the graduation rate for the first-time 9th graders of 2005-2006 with adjustments made for transfers in and out. The 4-year cohort graduation rate is 65.06%. In contrast, the AYP graduation rate for 2009 is 86.72%. Over the next few years, Alabama will be transitioning from use of the current AYP formula to the new 4-year cohort graduation rate for AYP purposes and for reporting purposes.

"It doesn't matter which formula you choose to use, the fact of the matter is too few students are graduating from high school on time, and we owe it to the future of this state to find effective ways of keeping our students in school," State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton said. "This is not about appearance or public relations. This is a real issue that's affecting our state. Yes, we've made progress, but we can't rest on our laurels. One student not graduating on time is one too many."

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