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Birmingham City Schools Reports 23-point Increase In Graduation Rates Over Last Four Years

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Birmingham City Schools has reported a 78 percent 4-year graduation rate for the class that graduated in 2014, which is a 23-point increase in the cohort graduation rate in four years. That rate is a 12-point increase over the 2012-2013 graduation rate of 66 percent.

The report is based on preliminary data for the 2013-2014 school year that the Alabama State Department of Education is expected to report in 2015. In releasing the data early, the Birmingham system is “taking advantage of this season of celebration and counting this good news among the joys of the season,” according to a release.

In 2013, the state did away with the Alabama High School Graduation Exam as a requirement for graduation and adopted new assessments from the Alabama College-And-Career-Ready Standards. Most of the students in the 2013-2014 cohort would not have had to take the graduation exam.

State-level data for comparison is not yet available for this year. When asked if he expected cohort graduation rates to show an increase across the state because the graduation exam is no longer a requirement, state Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice said no.

“I do not see the Grad Exam change being a major factor as the vast majority – 97% – were passing all parts already,” Bice said. “I attribute the increase to a focus on individual students and providing them with support and innovative pathways to graduation while meeting our new and more rigorous academic expectations.”

The rate is near both the Alabama cohort graduation rate from 2012-2013 and the 2011-2012 national estimated average cohort graduation rate, which were both 80 percent.

“We’ve been diligent in focusing on the work that really moves the needle on student achievement and outcomes,” Birmingham Superintendent Craig Witherspoon said in a release. “We are ecstatic about the significant gains, but we had every confidence that this would be our result once we were all focused and moving in the same direction.”

Witherspoon, who is resigning at the end of this year, thanked the system’s faculty and staff for the increase. “These results begin to take shape from the very first day a student enters school, and I want to make it clear that this success belongs to each and every one of our employees who touch the lives of children daily,” he stated.

In a release, the school system cited several reasons for the increase:

The implementation of the “wall-to-wall academy model” in the system’s high schools, including Freshman Academies
The use of alternative schooling to recover students who have dropped out or who are about to drop out. More than 500 students have been “recovered” and earned diplomas, according to the release
Better record-keeping – which the release notes is “a given expectation” – which allows the system to better keep track of students and process “paperwork associated with student movement.”

Information about individual schools in the Birmingham system and more is available in the table and PDF below, from Birmingham City Schools.

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