A recent report on education in Alabama, “Obstacles Into Opportunities: A 90% High School Graduation Rate in Alabama by 2020 Provides the Educated Workforce That is Key to Expanding Our Economy,” outlines strategies for addressing numerous issues in our state, including increased unemployment and the number of families living in poverty.
The solution? Improve and expand high quality pre-kindergarten, set high expectations for all students, support continued learning for teachers and school leaders, and set every student on a pathway to success after high school.
The report was prepared for the Business Education Alliance by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) and Auburn University-Montgomery economics professor Keivan Deravi.
Here’s what the hard data tell us: By 2020, about two thirds of jobs in the United States “will require postsecondary education and training of some kind, from the certificate to the graduate level.”
Despite this, “Historically, Alabama has set its educational standards lower than other states,” according to the report. “Our students have performed poorly on national assessments. Our high school graduation rate has trailed the national average. Students in some schools, particularly those from poverty backgrounds, have lagged far behind their peers. Our college-going rate is at the national average, but our graduation rates from two-year and four-year colleges are low.”
When the graduation rate rose to 80% in 2014, State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice stated that Alabama was ahead of schedule on its way to reach the Plan 2020 goal of 90%. The PARCA report helps translate the higher graduation rate to an increase into Alabama’s economy by way of higher employment, earnings and tax revenue.
But, Plan 2020 is not just focused on the graduation rate, but in preparing students for real life after they graduate. These potential gains add credibility to the strategies outlined in Plan 2020.
Those strategies already being implemented to help increase the knowledge and skill level of tomorrow’s graduates include:
- raising the academic standards for K-12 education, and other initiatives like dual enrollment programs in many high schools,
- expanding Advanced Placement courses and support,
- expanding pre-k, and fully implementing the Alabama State Department of Education’s “Plan 2020” which is putting the necessary steps in place to raise Alabama’s graduation rate to 90% by 2020.