Next year’s eighth graders will have a new academic requirement to complete in order to eventually earn their Alabama high school diploma.
The Alabama Board of Education voted 5-to-2 to add a requirement that demonstrates graduates are ready for college or a career, effective with the class of 2028. Board members Stephanie Bell and Jackie Zeigler voted no. Board members Cynthia McCarty and Belinda McRae were not present.
Gov. Kay Ivey, who serves as president of the board, championed the addition, asking board members to vote yes.
“Parents want their children to graduate from high school with the skills needed to excel in college and career,” Ivey said.
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“And since the rule does not take effect until 2028, we have plenty of time to work with local school districts to expand access to a range of college and career readiness indicators to meet the interests of every student.”
Students have four years to attain at least one of the following 10 indicators:
- A benchmark score on the ACT college entrance exam,
- A qualifying score of three or higher on an Advanced Placement exam,
- A qualifying score of four or higher on an International Baccalaureate exam,
- Earning college credit while in high school,
- Earning silver or gold status on the ACT WorkKeys exam,
- Completing an in-school youth apprenticeship program,
- Earning a career technical industry credential listed on the compendium of valuable credentials of the Alabama Committee on Credentialing and Career Pathways,
- Being accepted into a branch of the military before graduation,
- Attaining career and technical education completer status,
- Any additional college and career readiness indicator approved by the State Board of Education.
Students who do not earn an indicator before they graduate have two years following when they were supposed to graduate to attain an indicator.
Previous board discussions centered around whether equitable opportunities would exist for all students statewide.
Alabama Superintendent Eric Mackey said they are developing a grant program for schools to expand programming to include the various offerings among indicators.
The change signals an interest in returning to an academic requirement for Alabama diplomas. The state dropped the high school graduation exam in 2014, citing it as an unnecessary barrier for some students.
Critics at the time said Alabama’s high school diploma lost value when the only requirement to graduate was to get passing grades.
Just prior to dropping the graduation exam, the state adopted seven different types of accomplishments – called college and career readiness (CCR) indicators – that would serve as evidence that students had what it took to head to college or start their career, but they didn’t make it a graduation requirement at the time.
Education officials noticed pretty quickly that not all graduates were checking one of the then-seven boxes showing they were college or career ready.
In 2016, 87% of students graduated on time, but only 66% earned a CCR indicator, a difference of 21 percentage points.
In the class of 2021, 92% of students graduated, but only 76% earned a CCR indicator – a gap of 16 percentage points.
In some high schools, the gap between the graduation rate and the CCR rate was as wide as 50 percentage points.