Some AL high schools see dip in 2012 graduation rates - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Some AL high schools see dip in 2012 graduation rates

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OPELIKA, AL (WTVM) -

Alabama graduation rates have been released by the state board of education for the year 2012. 

Overall, the state earned a 75 percent rate. More than 45,000 seniors graduated, and close to 3,600 students dropped out.

Michael Sibley, Alabama Department of Education, says this is a 3 percent increase for the state since 2011, with about 1,800 more students graduating from high school than the previous year.

Still, some education leaders say federal standards for measuring high school graduation rates have changed, and are more stringent. This has caused the rates to dip for a few school districts in the region.

Dr. Neighbors, Opelika City Schools, says, "We are at 81 percent. The previous graduation rate we have is between 90 and 88 percent on average."

Opelika is actually above the current state average of 75 percent. Auburn came in at 88 percent, which is the highest in the area. Lee County is 83 percent, Chambers County is 76 percent, Lanett 78 percent, Macon County 83 percent, Russell County 58 percent, and Phenix City is at 70 percent. 

"We are not satisfied, but not dissatisfied, when you look at the big changes in how they calculate it," says Neighbors. His administration is being proactive, determined to raise their rate under the new standards.

Neighbors is encouraging parents to get on board, emphasizing that high school success begins with attendance at an early age.

"We have some kindergartners that are tardy 30 to 60 times a year, as late as 10:30 a.m. and they have missed a third of that instructional year," says Neighbors. "It is not fair to that child, it is not fair to the teacher, and the other children in that class as they wait for the student to catch up. It is such a serious issue that we have asked the state Attorney General to look at defining when a tardy is considered an absence after a certain period of time."

Opelika takes the issue on in three ways. First, students with perfect attendance are rewarded. Students struggling to get to school are visited by counselors at their home to find and reason and offer help. Also, Neighbors and others are calling for tighter laws on absences and tardies.

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