Our Views: High schools showing gains

If the good news about increased graduation rates from high school does not take us out of the bottom tier of the states, there is still reason for optimism about the direction of Louisiana public schools.

The latest graduation rate is 72 percent, up 1 percentage point from 2011 and a sharp rise from the 61 percent in 2001. Gov. Bobby Jindal rightly hailed the increase as another step toward raising Louisiana’s educational attainment.

While that last phrase sounds a bit clinical, the impact of high school graduation in society can hardly be overestimated.

A high school graduate is better prepared for work and better prepared to be able to take advantage of the training programs and other educational opportunities available.

In today’s workforce, even for those not going to a four-year college, the economic prospects for trained technicians and skilled workers demanded in business and industry are substantial.

We think it is a particularly good sign that the graduation rate in the Recovery School District — and more particularly in New Orleans, where the RSD has been working the longest — rose from 59 percent last year to 68 percent. The state had to take over some of the worst-performing high schools not only in this state but in the nation. The freshmen entering in 2008 who showed such progress are, we hope, a trend for the future.

Even a point or two of improvement is important: A report issued last year by the Southern Regional Education Board said Louisiana’s high school graduation rate rose faster than the rest of the nation. It increased by 6 percentage points between 1999 and 2009 compared with 5 percentage points nationwide.

The signs of progress ought to be hailed, but as the governor said in announcing the improvements at Dutchtown High School in Geismar, the state isn’t yet where we want it to be. “We’ve got more work to do,” he said, and he is right.

Students marking time until they drop out — and too many still do in Louisiana — constitute a loss of the state’s assets.

Investing in progress in public education is good for every family, even those without children or grandchildren in public schools.