The Alabama Board of Education took a step forward toward changing high school graduation requirements Thursday.
The board voted 6-3 to begin a 45-day public comment period on its intent to require all graduating high school students to complete at least one college and career ready credit. The only current requirement is that students complete 24 credits.
Gov. Kay Ivey said the move is needed to “close the gap” between the graduation rate and the rate of students who are college and career ready.
“For the classes of 2020 and 2021, the Alabama graduation rate was 92 percent; the college and career readiness rate was 76 percent. Folks, that is a 16-percentage point gap, and we have to prepare Alabama students and workers for the jobs of tomorrow,” Ivey said.
If the changes are ultimately adopted, they would apply to the class of 2028 and beyond. State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey told the board the earliest possible vote will come at its November meeting, and more time could still be taken if concerns linger, but noted the change needs to be finalized in Spring to get the policy in place before the class enters freshman year.
Several board members questioned whether adding a requirement could negatively affect struggling students.
Boar member Tonya Chestnut said opportunities to earn credits are not equal across the state’s school systems.
“What are the plans for providing resources, more offerings so that it does not matter what zip code the child lives in, that they have similar experiences?” Bell asked
Board members Jackie Zeigler, Belinda McRae joined Bell in voting against the motion after citing similar concerns.
Mackey said there are 150 different credentials that exist that school systems will be able to pull from to ensure students graduate with at least one credit.
“I think by 2028 we can absolutely see that every graduate in every school meets the college and career ready credential, I do not think it will lower our graduation rate,” Mackey said. “That is obviously a concern, because if currently your graduation rate is 92 percent and your CCR rate is 44 percent, then if you say ‘all graduates have to have a CCR’ you’re saying ‘well, my graduation rate will be 44 percent.’ Well, my belief is that by 2028 our schools are going to do what they have to do to make sure all our students make CCR.”
There are multiple different qualifying credits that would count towards graduation if the new rule is ultimately approved:
- A benchmark score on the ACT college entrance exam,
- A qualifying score on an Advanced Placement exam,
- A qualifying score on an International Baccalaureate exam,
- Earning college credit while in high school,
- A qualifying score on the ACT WorkKeys test,
- A qualifying in-school youth apprenticeship,
- A career tech credential,
- Acceptance into a branch of the military prior to graduation,
- Attaining career and technical education completer status, or
- Any college and career readiness indicator approved by the State Board of Education.