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County graduation rates on rise

The Alabama State Department of Education recently released graduation rates for the 2013-14 cohort.

All three school systems in Marengo County made improvements over last year’s cohort graduation rate. Demopolis City Schools reached and exceeded the No Child Left Behind goal of 90 percent by achieving a 91 percent graduation rate for the most recent cohort. Marengo County Schools also exceeded the NCLB goal by achieving a graduation rate of 93 percent for the class. Linden City Schools had a graduation rate of 88 percent for the 2013-14 cohort, which is up from 81 percent from the previous class.

Demopolis Superintendent Al Griffin said he’s proud of the work of the teachers and staff in his school system.

“I thank our teachers for embracing what, at times, people thought were madman’s philosophies and ideas I had,” Griffin said. “They weren’t philosophies and ideas, though. Research indicates that using the formative process with data analysis and remediation works. I just thank everyone for buying into what we’re doing. We’re reaping the reward. This is my fourth graduating class here, and I’m very proud of this cohort group. It’s a team effort.”

Griffin added that he and the school system aren’t satisfied with 91 percent.

“My first year on the cohort system in 2011, we were at 89 percent,” he said. “The next two years we held strong at 88 percent. This year, with dedication, we’re at 91 percent, but we aren’t satisfied. We haven’t arrived, and we’re still striving for 100 percent. I have to commend our staff. This is a kindergarten through 12th-grade effort. It’s a community effort.”

Before 2011, graduation rates in Alabama were determined by how many students started in August of their senior year, then they subtracted those who made a bonafide move out of the district, added those who made a bonafide move into the district, then compared that to the number of students who received a diploma by the end of summer school that year.

Starting in 2011, the state moved to the cohort system, which starts with the number freshmen entering the school, then subtract those who make a bonafide move out of the district and add those who make a bonafide move into the district over the four-year period. It also takes into account the students who drop out through those four years.

“For 2011, my first year here, the cohort started in 2007,” Griffin said. “To get the graduation rate for that year, they looked at how many students started as freshmen in 2007 and compared it to how many received diplomas in 2011. After that year, I realized improvement could be made. The credit goes to the administrations and staff at the high school, because we realized we had students falling through the cracks from an academic standpoint and were not achieving eligibility to graduate. We implemented a remediation program, and the College and Career Readiness Standards were implemented. We also partnered with a company that does formative exams preparing students for high stakes assessments, then goes over data with the teachers to determine what individual students need as far as what it takes to maximize their potential.”

Marengo County Superintendent Luke Hallmark said the system-wide increase in graduation rate is due to the hard work of the staff.

“When you’re dealing with small numbers, it only takes a few students to throw the end result off kilter,” Hallmark said. “One or two students can make a difference, but I will say our support staff that has hone out to the different schools to work closely with teachers and principles is paying dividends. I’m glad to see the result of the hard work put in by everyone.”

Hallmark added that 100 percent graduation is the goal for the system.

“We’d love for the end result to be having all students graduate,” he said. “Having 93 percent is really good for the county, but that means there’s still 7 percent of students who didn’t graduate. We want to look into tutoring programs and find ways they can maybe take the GED or go to a technical college and get their scores up to earn a certificate or even a degree.”

Broken down by school, A.L. Johnson’s graduate rate was 95 percent, John Essex’s rate was 87 percent, Marengo High School’s rate was 95 percent and Sweet Water’s graduation rate was 90 percent.