Grad rate shows mixed results

Published 8:52 am Friday, July 18, 2014

The percentage of Louisiana high school students graduating within four years increased for the third year in a row in 2013, the state Department of Education reports.

Figures show that the rate hit 73.5 percent for 2013. That’s a little more than a 1-percentage-point increase from 2012. And it marks a jump of more than 12 percentage points from 2001.

Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White called the latest numbers both a cause for celebration and a “sobering reminder of how far we have to go” to educate all students.

The rate, a record high for the state, remains low when compared to the rest of the nation. A report released earlier this year by education advocates cited U.S. Department of Education figures showing a national graduation rate of 80 percent for 2012.

Locally, the Washington Parish School System had a 2013 graduation rate of 81.7, an increase of 0.1 percent from the previous year. The system’s graduation rate was 8.2 percent higher than that of the state and 1.7 percent better than the national rate.

The Bogalusa City School System’s graduation rate was 54 percent, a 2.1-percent decrease from the year before. The district’s percentage of high school students graduating within four years was 19.5 percent lower than the Louisiana rate and 26 percent below that of the nation.

The Louisiana department acknowledged challenges as it released the figures. Among them: just under 37 percent of students with disabilities graduate on time.

“Our system is not where it needs to be with respect to students with disabilities,” White said in a telephone news conference.

Also, only 56 percent of the 2013 graduates entered universities or community colleges. The department said that number needs to be increased because most jobs in Louisiana require education after high school.

White said the major reason for the improved numbers over the years has been the state’s accountability system that makes the graduation rates a factor in grades given to schools and districts. He touched on other programs aimed at supporting efforts to stem dropouts, including a “transitional ninth grade” policy.

Under that policy, eighth-graders are no longer held back because of poor classroom or standardized test performance. They can move on to ninth grade while taking remedial course work. Students who are required to repeat eighth grade are more likely to drop out, White said.

He also touted the “Jump Start” program. Every district now has a program providing for collaboration among schools, colleges and businesses to provide career-oriented course work and workplace experiences.

“I want to congratulate high school students, teachers and parents on their hard work in achieving another record high graduation rate,” Gov. Bobby Jindal said in an emailed news release. “We have more jobs and opportunity in this state than ever before, and now more of our children will be better prepared to follow their dreams of going to college or finding a great job right here in Louisiana.”

(Reporter Lucy Parker contributed to this article.)