Even though it is three years away, state educators will know by November whether Louisiana’s public high school graduation rate will reach a state-mandated 80 percent by 2014.
The goal is considered highly ambitious because the state’s rate is 67.4 percent, which federal officials say is 47th in the nation.
However, a 2009 state law requires an 80 percent graduation rate, and state officials have launched a wide range of new programs to get there.
The key is the passage rate for ninth-graders who finished school in May.
The only way to reach an 80 percent graduation rate in three years is for 95 percent of those ninth-graders to earn promotion to the 10th grade.
“We should have a report on the percentage of ninth-graders that were promoted to the 10th grade by the middle of November,” said Mike Collier, a research analyst at the state Department of Education.
The promotion rate for ninth-graders last year was 85 percent, according to the department.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa and sponsor of the 80-percent law, has said he plans to hold the state’s top school board accountable for reaching the goal.
Earlier this year state education leaders announced that public high school dropout rates in Louisiana showed the biggest decline in a decade. During the 2009-10 school year, 4.6 percent of high school students dropped out, down from 6.3 percent the year before.
But even with the improvement the state leads the nation in the percentage of high school students who drop out each year.
How states compare on high school graduation rates has triggered problems for years because of different calculation methods. However, all states have to use the same method starting with the 2011-12 school year. That figure will reflect the progress of ninth-graders moving through high school, toward graduation.
One aim of the change is to prevent states from inflating graduation rates by reporting dropouts as transfers, according to the Southern Regional Education Board.