Kids Count study shows increase in diplomas

Published 12:23 pm Saturday, July 26, 2014

Editor’s note: this is the second of two stories analyzing an report released this week about overall child well being in Alabama.

High school diplomas are becoming more common across Alabama, according to a national study released this week.

The 2014 Kids Count Data Book found that children in families where the head of the household lacks a diploma improved by 3 percent and the number of high school students not graduating on time improved by 9 percent. The Kids Count Data Book used statistics from 2005 in comparison to 2012.

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The numbers match up with several other education-related improvements in the study, such as fourth graders not proficient in reading and eighth graders not proficient in math, which also decreased.

“The 2014 national Kids Count Data Book reaffirms that the programs our state lawmakers have put in place over the last two decades are making a differences in the lives of children, but the current rankings show that we still have a long road to travel to get where we want and need Alabama to be,” said Melanie Bridgeforth, who is the director of VOICES for Alabama’s Children, in a news release.

With the number of students graduating late and households with the lack of a diploma decreasing, some local industries are working to ensure the rate continues increasing and Dallas County residents are ready for the workforce.

The program brought human resource directors at local industries into classrooms. It taught basic skills, such as job interview do and don’ts, but also provided information about careers in the area.

Selma-Dallas County Economic Development director Wayne Vardaman said the program could indirectly help increase the rates in the Kids Count book by showing students the opportunities that await following graduation. Vardaman said some industries are faced with an undertrained local population when trying to hire.

“You pay the price for training employees whether you actually do it or not,” Vardaman said.

Hiring undertrained personnel could lead to errors in production processes and an inferior product, he said.

The program Vardaman spoke of was specifically targeted at students, but he said local industries are also looking to target adults, which he said could also have a positive effect on high school graduation rates in an indirect way.

“If you have a good job, it’s going to increase your self worth,” he said. “I think it’s proven that kids who come out of better, more supportive homes do better in life.”

Vardaman said industries plan to continue to the training programs in the 2014-15 school year.

Education wasn’t the only factor considered in the study. In fact, head of households with a high school diploma was placed in the family and community category.

Alabama’s family and community category was 42 out of 50 in the nation, its second worst individual category. The lowest category was education — 45 of 50.

Health was the state’s best ranking at 36 of 50.

The state’s economic well being was 39 of 50. Overall, Alabama ranked 44 of 50 for child well being. In descending order behind Alabama were South Carolina, Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi.