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County grad rates see boost

As Alabama graduation rates improve statewide, Chilton County is following the trend.

County high schools saw a 3-percent increase in graduates from last year after suffering a 5-percent decrease the previous year.

Prior to the 2006-07 school year, schools reported dropout rates instead of graduation rates.

The Chilton County school system saw a graduation rate of 81 percent in 2009-10, 78 percent in 2007-08, 83 percent in 2006-07 and 75 percent in 2006-07.

Chilton County Board of Education school improvement coordinator Karen Mitchell said the state’s goal is 90 percent.

Graduation rates are compared year to year. Starting next semester, the state will determine the graduation rate based on high school students who complete their diplomas in four years.

In the 1996-1997 school year, Alabama’s graduation rate was almost 57 percent, placing the state just under 9 percentage points behind the national average of 65.7 percent.

Testing Services and Average Yearly Progress coordinator Pam Harris said Mitchell’s school improvement program is a key reason the county has seen increased graduation rates in recent years. She also said hiring a graduation coach for one county school played a large role in improvement. Other reasons include the new credit-based diploma, graduation exam tutoring and schools stressing specific areas where students are deficient. Schools have also purchased materials for remediation.

To continue to increase the rate and reach the state goal of 90 percent, Harris said the idea is simple.

“We’re just going to have to try to keep the students in school,” she said. “Our dropouts hurt us. We’re trying to keep our students in school and continue to work in the classrooms teaching the curriculum and course of study.”

Harris said while the current rate is better thaN it has been, it would be better without the dropout rate. She said those who drop out can enroll in a credit recovery program where they can retake the part of a class they failed and then move on. She said several students who fall behind are frustrated when they are unable to graduate with their original classmates.