MOBILE COUNTY, Ala. (WPMI) Some good news for Mobile County schools Wednesday: numbers are in for the 2011-2012 school year and the graduation rate continues to climb.
For the 2009-2010 school year, the graduation rate was a troubling 56 percent. It crept up 8 percent the following year, and climbed again in the 2011-2012 school year to 70 percent.
Superintendent Martha Peek has spearheaded the 80-20 program, with the goal of achieving an 80 percent graduation rate by 2020.
"We're well on our way," Peek said.
Peek made the announcement at an education summit at USA's Mitchell Center Wednesday morning. It's a big step for the county in a time of uncertainty, as budgets continue to be in the cross hairs.
"I think if any of us could have predicted this in 2008, we would have decided we would go out of business," said USA College of Education Dean Richard Hayes.
Hayes said USA has lost an average of $41 million a year for the last five years to budget cuts. He said the college has to constantly find ways to keep results up and costs down.
"As an example, the number of credit hours will go from 128 to 120 in order to get a degree," Hayes said. "Same quality, lower cost, shorter time."
Cuts are a nationwide epidemic, from K-12 to university level education. Pending sequestration talks, the cuts could get even worse.
"When we've had budget cuts before, we've absorbed them in the central office," Peek said. "That would be our intent again if this should happen."
In any case, the keynote speaker of Wednesday's event said Mobile County schools are faring better than many in the country. Nancy Zimpher is the chancellor of the State University of New York.
"From someone outside who doesn't live here, carry on. This is fantastic work," Zimpher said. "You're doing the right thing for this community."
Superintendent Peek says the county will likely reach the targeted 80 percent graduation rate before 2020.