State’s high school graduation rate rises; local parishes’ figures uneven _lowres

 

While still low nationally, Louisiana’s public high school graduation rate rose in 2014 to a record 74.6 percent, the state Department of Education said Monday.

The improvement was the fourth in a row and represents a rise of nearly 10 percentage points in less than a decade, officials said.

In the New Orleans area, gains were somewhat uneven.

The graduation rate in Jefferson Parish climbed 2.5 percentage points, to 71.9 percent. In St. Tammany Parish, the rate was up 0.2 percent, to 79.5 percent. The rate in Orleans Parish slipped by 0.1 percent, to 72.7 percent.

The slight decline in New Orleans happened in schools governed by the local school board, which held onto a small group of relatively high-performing campuses after the state took over most of the city’s public schools in 2005. That rate was down by 0.3 percentage points, to 89 percent.

In schools within the state-run Recovery School District, the graduation rate rose 1.6 percentage points, to 61.1 percent.

“The increases realized by our districts and schools are more evidence our state cannot afford to go backwards,” state Superintendent of Education John White said in a statement.

White’s comment seemed to be aimed at Gov. Bobby Jindal and other Common Core critics who hope to scrap the new multistate standards during this year’s legislative session, which begins next week.

The governor, who calls the Common Core standards intrusive, wants to use 2004 public school benchmarks while new ones are being written, an idea that White opposes.

“The irony in all of this is there are pieces of legislation that are seeking to stop this progress and are doing things that would take us back in time,” White told reporters in discussing the report on graduation rates.

The most recent average national graduation rate — for 2013 — was 81 percent.

At that time, Louisiana was ahead of only five states: Alaska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Georgia.

The new figures show that 32 of Louisiana’s 69 school districts posted four-year graduation rates of more than 80 percent, up from 13 in 2011.

Under a 2009 state law, the graduation rate was supposed to reach 80 percent statewide by 2014. However, backers of the measure always said that figure was ambitious.

Louisiana has won praise in recent years for improvements in its graduation rate compared to the rest of the nation. The statewide rate in 2006 was 64.8 percent.

The rate for white students last year was 80.3 percent; for African-American students, it was 67.9 percent.

However, White said that gap is narrowing, with white students improving by only 0.1 percent compared to 2 percent for African-American students.

The rate for students with disabilities was 42.8 percent, an increase of 6.1 percent.