The U.S. Secretary of Education recently recognized Alabama for having one of the nation’s steepest increases in high school graduation rates. Birmingham City Schools’ rate increased even more – up roughly 23 percent in the last four years. The latest data reported to the state education department puts the system’s rate at 79 percent — just below the national average. Regardless of that and larger questions about what the diplomas actually mean, having that piece of paper is helpful. For an NPR project, WBHM’s education reporter Dan Carsen sat down with James Hanks. He graduated last month thanks to Birmingham Schools’ Dropout Recovery Program, which runs three Alternative Learning Centers spread throughout the city. James attended the one housed at Agape Missionary Baptist Church in the Eastlake neighborhood. The five-minute on-air interview above starts with the former Woodlawn High School athlete and drum major explaining — really admitting — why he had trouble graduating on time last year.
More interviews follow.
Click below for the extended web-only interview with James:
Click below for the web-only interview with Ezra Shine, Birmingham City Schools’ Coordinator of Prevention, Recovery, and Alternative Programs for grades 6-12: