If Louisiana seems far back in the pack, the race for bettering public education is one where the state is showing some kick in its stride.
And if this race is a marathon, not a sprint, the recent successes in Louisiana’s high school graduation rates should be applauded as building toward better results in the future.
The graduation rate captures students in the “cohort” of those entering high school four years ago, so it does not include drop-outs and those who later go on to earn degrees. The latter should of course be encouraged but the big win is a four-year graduation, and more Louisiana students than ever are earning that diploma. The rate reached 77.5 percent in 2015, the Louisiana Department of Education announced Monday. State Superintendent of Education John White said that is an all-time high and the fifth straight year the rate has improved.
That black students remain below the average is not good news, but their improvement outpaced the state as a whole in the education department statistics. The graduation rate for African-American students was 71.4 percent in 2015, up from 67.9 percent the year before and a growth of 12.5 percentage points since 2010.
Louisiana’s high school graduation rate grew 2.9 percentage points from the 74.6 percent rate in 2014. By comparison, the nation’s graduation rate that year was 82.3 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education, the latest year for which national data is available. White said the results show that more young people are “achieving opportunity for life after high school.”
We would add that success always is dependent on two variables: the quality of the education received in high school as well as the increasingly vital issue of education and training after high school. In the latter, it is community colleges and technical schools that can provide the additional classes and programs that can make a high school graduate into a young person with a useful technical skill — and quite often a solid paycheck to go with it. White has championed school-to-work programs through the JumpStart initiative, which is a promising endeavor, but the success the superintendent cites also is highly dependent on the literacy in mathematics and English imparted by schools every day in classes.
Accountability thus should continue to be a watchword for policymakers, whether at the state department, local public school systems and charter schools or in the Governor’s Office and Legislature. Louisiana should seek to do better in the coming years and build on these new and positive results.