Bice talks high school graduates, future of education

State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice spoke about the future of education in Alabama at Helena High School on Sept. 25. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice spoke about the future of education in Alabama at Helena High School on Sept. 25. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

HELENA—According to State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice, an Alabama high school graduate is more than a student who has passed 12th grade. A high school graduate is a student armed with “curiosity to learn” and ready to take on whatever is next.

Since assuming the position of state superintendent in 2012, Bice has worked to raise the graduation rate in Alabama and “set a new bar of what a high school graduate looks like.”

In 2012, the graduation rate in Alabama was 72 percent, “not acceptable,” Bice said, so he set a goal of achieving a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.

“I believe in our students and I believe in our teachers that we can do this work,” Bice said.

But Bice said merely graduating is not enough.

“It really doesn’t matter if they graduate if they’re not prepared for what’s next,” Bice said during a Sept. 25 talk at Helena High School. “We’ve changed from adequate yearly progress to college and career readiness… Every child in Alabama should have a choice when they leave (high school).”

Meeting these higher expectations for graduates requires changing the traditional style of classroom learning and partnering with businesses and institution of higher education, Bice said.

Bice described his experience in a fifth grade classroom in rural Mobile County. By partnering with a local business and college, the teacher introduced coding and robotics to the fifth grade students to reinforce and apply the mathematics they learned.

“There’s nothing that says when school has to occur and on what day and what time,” Bice said. ��Imagine school as an experience not constrained by space and time.”

Helena High School has programs exemplifying the collaboration Bice discussed, such as the school’s health sciences program.

Through a partnership with Alabaster-based Lemak Sports Medicine and Orthopedic, Helena High School offers specialized classes for students interested in nursing and therapeutic services.

“The partnership with Lemak is not just a great partnership, they’re a curriculum and learning resource as well,” Helena High School Principal Jay Peoples said.