Alabama high school graduation rate for class of 2019 hits 92%

Updated 1:53 PM; Today 1:47 PM

Spain Park High School graduates attend their graduation ceremony while maintaining social distancing guidelines at the Hoover Met, in Hoover, Alabama
In this Wednesday, May 20, 2020 photo, Spain Park High School graduates attend their graduation ceremony while maintaining social distancing guidelines at the Hoover Met, in Hoover, Ala. Everyone attending the ceremony also had to wear a mask as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus. (Joe Songer/The Birmingham News via AP) APAP

By Trisha Powell Crain |

Alabama’s high school graduation rate rose to an all-time high of 91.7%, up nearly 2% from 90% for the class of 2018, according to an analysis of the class of 2019 graduation rates released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.

Speaking during a state board meeting last week, Alabama State Superintendent Eric Mackey, without stating what the actual graduation rate, told board members the rate reached “an all-time high.”

“That’s very good news for us,” Mackey said. “It’s really a stamp to show that the work the board is doing is working and we want to continue down this path.”

The rise in graduation rates in recent years coincides with multiple changes to graduation requirements and the use of graduation rates as a measure of accountability.

PARCA cites four changes to how Alabama counts and views high school graduation rates in recent years as possible reasons for the rise in graduation rate.

First, PARCA states, the state board of education dropped the high school graduation exam in 2013. Secondly, alternative diploma pathways were made available to all students instead of only students in special education, and third, the state expanded credit recovery efforts.

Finally, PARCA states, the graduation rate became an accountability measure, which motivated school officials to improve the rate.

In 2016, three years after dropping the high school graduation exam, state education officials developed a measure to signify whether a graduate has demonstrated readiness to be successful in college or move on to a career. That measure, known as the college and career readiness, or CCR, rate has grown from 38% for the class of 2014 to 80% for the class of 2019.

Closing the gap between the high school graduation rate and the CCR rate became a priority for state education officials, PARCA wrote, after concerns were raised that graduates were not workforce ready. The gap between the graduation rate and CCR rate has declined from 23 percentage points for the class of 2016 to 12 percentage points for the class of 2019.

According to PARCA, the percentage of graduates earning one of Alabama’s seven college and career readiness indicators are:

  • 61% reached the silver or gold level on the ACT WorkKeys exam
  • 50% earned a benchmark score in any subject area on the ACT college entrance exam
  • 37% earned a career technical industry credential
  • 14% earned college credit while in high school
  • 12% earned a qualifying score of 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam
  • 2% were accepted into the military
  • 1% earned a qualifying score of 4 or higher on an International Baccalaureate (IB) exam

PARCA further broke down graduation and CCR rates by school district, shown in an interactive chart on the PARCA website. That breakdown shows some school districts with high graduation rates but low CCR rates, resulting in large gaps between the two. For example, the 2019 graduation rate in Perry County schools was 99%, yet only 50% of graduates earned a CCR credential. In Dallas County, the 2019 graduation rate was 94%, but only half of those graduates earned a CCR credential. In Clarke County schools, 91% of students graduated within four years, while 68% earned a CCR credential.

Mackey told board members last week the state department is working with school districts with large gaps between graduation and CCR rates to close those gaps by improving college and career readiness., using graduation rates provided on the Alabama State Department of Education website, found rates improved for all groups of students in the class of 2019 compared to the class of 2018. The lowest graduation rates were for students in foster care and students with disabilities. The highest graduation rates were for Asian students, American Indian students and students identified as two or more races.

Student group2019 graduation rate (%)2018 graduation rate (%)
All students91.790
American Indian/Alaska Native93.990.3
Black or African American89.887.7
Economically disadvantaged87.484.4
Foster66.5not provided
Military Affiliated92.5not provided
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander84.985
Students with disabilities69.668
Students with limited English proficiency76.564.4
Two or more races93.190.7

The graduation rate is part of Alabama’s accountability requirements under federal education law and will be included on Alabama’s education report card, which will be published before Dec. 31, Deputy Superintendent Daniel Boyd told