Ala. Dept. of Edu. works to increase graduation rates

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - "A lot of students we've found usually drop out of school because of life events," says Alabama Dropout Prevention Coordinator, Kay Warfield.

She personally relates to dropouts.  She had a family member who was bullied and didn't graduate.

It's one reason helping kids get a diploma is important to her.

"If every child is not graduating, that is a concern for every educator, every citizen in the state of Alabama."

The State Board of Education hired Warfield six years ago to help make that happen.

She started several programs--including mandatory interviews of students before they're allowed to drop out, and placing graduation coaches in schools

"We have 220 graduation coaches. The initial project only really supports 25. So the local school systems have taken that burden on themselves."

In 2006, Alabama's graduation rate was 82%.  In 2010, it jumped to 87%.

"We were just ranked 3rd in the nation for reducing the number of dropouts in our state," says Warfield.

"We don't have the highest graduation rate. But we are increasing our rate at a higher rate than other states," says State Director of Assessment and Accountability, Dr. Gloria Turner.

Despite the fact that 87% of the state's seniors graduate, Turner says, "that leaves 13% that are not.  And there's a concern for that 13%."

Warfield says when kids don't graduate, they pay less in taxes, it's harder to find good jobs and cities often experience more crime.

That's one reason a local Montgomery radio station--WVAS-FM--is hosting a community forum July 28th to discuss how to prevent high school dropouts.

Panelists include Deputy State Superintendent Dr. Bice, Montgomery Public School Superintendent Barbara Thompson, and Montgomery Police Chief Kevin Murphy.

The forum starts at 6pm at Bellingrath Middle School.

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