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Superintendent wants graduation coaches

By M.J. Ellington · (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Alabama educators may not agree that 42 Alabama high schools are “dropout factories” as one recent analysis of national graduation rates labeled them.

But State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton said Thursday even educators who disagree with the designation agree graduation rates need to be higher.

“It really does not take away from the debate that we are not graduating as many of our students as we should be,” Morton told the State Board of Education.

Graduation rates

A Johns Hopkins University analysis of graduation data released in October showed 42 Alabama high schools with graduation rates of 60 percent or less. The data tracked students who started out as freshmen at the schools. The national graduation rate was about 75 percent.

Morton said the proposed education budget for 2009 includes $13 million to pay for graduation coaches in a category listed as dropout prevention. The graduation coaches would help keep students in school until they graduate.

“It sounds a whole lot better than dropout prevention specialist,” Morton said.

Morton said he originally put the amount in the 2008 education budget now in effect. He wants more students to graduate.

The Legislature cut the amount for coaches to $550,000 for the current budget, but Morton said the proposed budget would increase the amount to the original proposal.

The board endorsed Morton’s budget proposal. It goes to the governor’s office before it goes to the Legislature for consideration in 2008.

The proposal includes increases of almost $245 million. Among them is a higher line item to pay for health insurance benefits for teachers and other education employees. The $775 per employee cost will increase to $795 in 2009.

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