Parish schools graduation rate above state average; city below

Published 11:50 am Sunday, April 21, 2013


With its graduation rate at 81.6 percent, the Washington Parish School System has surpassed the statewide rate of 72.3 percent by nearly 10 points.

But the news was not so good for the Bogalusa City School System, whose graduation rate was 56.1 percent.

The data for the 2011-12 school year was released last week by the Louisiana Department of Education.

Washington Parish Superintendent Darrell Fairburn said he was pleased with his system’s numbers.

“We want to do better, but when you compare us to the state and nation and other school systems, we feel very good about where we’re at with our graduation rate,” he said.

The state set a goal for all systems to be at 80 percent by 2015. Fairburn noted the system has reached that, and he said he wants to see continued improvement. The system grew two points from the previous year, when the graduation rate was 79.6 percent.

Fifteen school districts achieved a graduation rate higher than 80 percent last school year. The Washington Parish system ranked number 11 in the state, tied with Lafourche Parish.

The figures are based on the graduation cohort rate, which tracks students from the time they enter ninth grade to see how many graduate on time. Students who began their freshmen year in 2008 are represented in the 2011-12 graduation rate.

The system also gets credit in its graduation rate for students who complete their GED within a certain timeframe.

“Once they drop out, they have to get their GED before Sept. 30 of the next year,” Fairburn said.

Fairburn said a number of factors can go into a student’s decision to drop out. The curriculum does not meet their needs of some, so they do not see the relevance of staying in school. Some students lack support at home, while others leave school to find work.

He said the system’s guidance counselors and administrators have worked with these students to show them the importance of staying in school and to encourage them to complete their high school education, and this has helped the graduation rate.

The graduation cohort rate comprises 25 percent of the performance score for the schools and for the district.

The gradation rates for the individual high schools were Pine, 83.7 percent; Franklinton, 82.4 percent; Varnado, 76.6; and Mt. Hermon, 76 percent.

Fairburn said the graduation rates at small schools like Varnado and Mt. Hermon can be affected if just one or two students drop out. Mt. Hermon, for example, had about 20 graduates last year.

An experience several years ago showed the system the importance of making sure data is entered correctly and graduates are properly tracked, Fairburn said. When the graduation rates were revealed that year, he said, the district ranked at the bottom.

“I knew that could not be correct, so I immediately began trying to find out what was going on,” he said.

After Fairburn and the other administrators poured through the data, a better understanding was gained about entering data correctly and at the right time, and the problem was corrected. One issue, he said, is that schools would sometimes forget to add in the students who later earned their GED.

“When all that was finally sifted through, that’s when we found out we had one of the top districts at that time,” he said.

Fairburn said the administrators and guidance counselors are doing a good job of keeping up with the data.

Bogalusa City Schools Acting Superintendent Toni Breaux, staff and school board members were at the National School Board Association Conference in California and could not be reached for comment.

Bogalusa High School had a graduation rate of 54 percent, while the rate was 70 percent at Bogalusa New Tech.