Last Modified: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 9:50 AM
Louisiana’s high school graduation rate reached an all-time high last year, a mark that’s cause for subdued celebration.
Students who graduated in 2012 after entering high school four years earlier reached 72.3 percent. That’s nearly 1 percent higher than the 2011 mark and a 10 percent gain from 2002.
Those are impressive gains. But the elation also must be tempered by the fact that Louisiana still trails the national high school graduation rate of 78 percent and ranks in the bottom 20 percent of graduation rates among states.
Gov. Bobby Jindal said education reforms that have been put in place since he first took office in 2009 are paying off.
‘‘... We have eliminated ineffective programs and invested in programs that improve outcomes for students.’’
‘‘These reforms are working for our students. Graduation rates have reach an all-time high and more students that ever before are better prepared for higher education or a job in the workforce,’’ the governor said.
Jindal said changes that have factored in the graduation rate improvement include letter grades for schools that increase accountability; a switch to more effective dropout programs like Jobs for America’s Graduates, that has a 95 percent graduation rate; tougher standards to prepare students for college and careers; and a focus on turning around low-performing schools through the Recovery School District.
Southwest Louisiana has been instrumental in bolstering the state’s graduation rates. Beauregard (second at 87.9 percent), Jeff Davis (fifth at 85.8 percent), Cameron (sixth at 84.8 percent), Allen (eighth at 84.5 percent) and Vernon (13th at 80.7 percent) were among the 15 school districts in the state that recorded graduations rates of better than 80 percent.
Calcasieu Parish’s graduation rate for 2011-2012 was 78.6 percent.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the high school diploma can be a delineation between the haves and have-nots. A department study found that the average high school dropout in 2009 earned $19,540 annually, more than $7,800 less than a high school graduate. Projected over a 40-year work career, the average salary of a student earning a high school diploma would add up to more than $313,000 than the average salary of the high school dropout.
Simply put, the majority of high school dropouts have fewer job options, and are more likely to commit crime and rely on some sort of government assistance.
That’s why continuing to improve the high school graduation rates is vital to our area and state’s economic well-being and quality of life.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.