High school graduation rate rises

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Since ’01, rate up 11 percentage points

Louisiana’s latest public high school graduation rate is 72 percent, Gov. Bobby Jindal said Thursday.

The rate is up from 71 percent in 2011, which was 47th in the nation.

It has risen from 61 percent in 2001, a gain of more than 10 percentage points.

“We made great progress ... But we’ve got more work to do,” Jindal told reporters.

“Until we get 100 percent, we’re not going to rest,” he said.

The latest results apply to students who were high school freshmen in 2008.

The figure is 66 percent for the East Baton Rouge Parish school district, up from 64 percent the previous year; 87 percent in Ascension Parish, up from 81 percent the previous year and 76 percent in Livingston Parish, down from 79 percent in 2010-11.

The rate for Zachary Community Schools is 88 percent, down from 93 percent in the previous year; Central Community Schools is 80 percent, down from 81 percent the previous year and 71 percent in the City of Baker School District, which is unchanged.

In West Baton Rouge Parish 64 percent of students graduated, down from 70 percent previously.

The Orleans Parish School District, which oversees five high schools, has a graduation rate of 89 percent, tops in the state.

The Recovery School District/New Orleans rate is 68 percent, up from 59 percent.

Jindal said improvements show the impact of several public school changes while students went through high school, including letter grades for public schools, the elimination of ineffective dropout programs and tougher standards for students to prepare for college and careers.

“Graduation rates have reached an all-time high and more students than ever before are better prepared for higher education or a job in the workforce,” the governor said in a prepared statement.

Jindal made the announcement at Ascension’s Dutchtown High School in Geismar, where the graduation rate is 94 percent, up 4.5 points and more than 20 points above the state average.

“This great parish is indicative of great things that are happening across this state,” state Superintendent of Education John White said.

Improving the number of high school graduates has been a top state priority for several years.

Under a 2009 state law, the rate is supposed to reach 80 percent by 2014.

However, state education officials have long said that is an ambitious target.

State Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa and sponsor of that measure, said he is pleased by the latest figures.

“I am very encouraged,” Nevers said. “We are making progress.”

He added, “The goal of 80 percent was certainly an aggressive goal at the time we set it.”

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.

Michelle Millhollon of the Capitol news bureau contributed to this report.