Louisiana continues to improve its public high school graduation rate, hit record rate of 74.6% in 2014

The Advocate

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

“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 prepared statement.

His comment seemed to refer to plans by Gov. Bobby Jindal and other Common Core critics to scrap the multistate standards during the 2015 legislative session, which begins next week.

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

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

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

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

The graduation rate for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system was 66.2 percent, a drop of 2.4 percentage points from the previous year.

Others included: Ascension, 87.1 percent; Livingston, 79.6; West Baton Rouge, 73.7; Zachary, 88.5; and Central, 83.2 percent.

Also, Jefferson, 71.9 percent; St. Tammany, 79.5; St. Bernard, 79.0; and Orleans, 89.0 for Orleans Parish School Board schools but 61.1 percent for the more numerous Recovery School District campuses.

The DeSoto Parish school system, near Shreveport, ranks tops in the state at 94.5 percent.

The West Feliciana Parish school district is third in the state at 92.3 percent.

The Lafayette Parish school district figure is 68.8 percent, down 3.3 percentage points from the previous year; Evangeline, 67.1 percent; Iberia, 69.6; St. Landry, 74.6; Vermilion, 89.4; and St. Martin, 77.4 percent.

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

In a prepared statement, Jindal praised the four years of gains.

“This is truly a testament to the hard work of our dedicated teachers, parents and students in Louisiana,” he said.

The state has won praise in recent years for improvements in graduation rates compared to the rest of the nation.

The statewide graduation rate was 64.8 percent in 2006.

The rate for white students last year was 80.3 percent and for African-American students 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.

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