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White touts state's increased graduation rates

Last Modified: Saturday, July 12, 2014 4:36 PM

By Kara Carrier / American Press

The state’s high school graduation rate has increased for the third straight year, Education Superintendent John White said Friday.

White, in a media teleconference, said Louisiana’s cohort graduation rate — based on the percentage of students who enter the ninth grade and graduate four years later — rose to 73.5 percent in the 2012-13 school year. He said this is a 1.2 percent increase from the class of 2012 and a 12.2 percent increase since 2001.

“The overall news is good news,” White said. “It is a significant life opportunity for every child that graduated ... from high school who otherwise would not have. I commend our schools and our school systems for focusing relentlessly on really that most fundamental of ideas, which is that every young man and woman deserves a chance at the life opportunity that is granted by a diploma.”

White added, however, that the numbers he announced Friday were also a “sobering reminder” of how far the state still has to go to get equitable opportunities for all children. He said the state still has challenges with the number of students graduating within four years.

“Twenty-six percent of our kids do not graduate within four years,” he said. “Nearly 20 percent of our kids do not graduate at all. That is a challenge we must address.”

White said with the increase in graduation rates and several new education initiatives — the Jump Start career diploma initiative, transitional ninth-grade programs and a renewed focus on students with disabilities — he’s hopeful that more improvements will be seen in the future.

“I think when you take these three initiatives in their totality ... we really have the strategies in place necessary to increase this graduation rate even more dramatically,” he said.

During the teleconference, White also addressed the dispute between the Education Department and Gov. Bobby Jindal regarding state standardized tests for next year. On Thursday the governor’s office rejected a compromise submitted by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The compromise was to keep Common Core State Standards questions on the 2014-15 LEAP tests and to integrate Louisiana-specific questions.

White said he was frustrated and disappointed that teachers and parents still don’t have clarity regarding which test students will take at the end of next school year.

“We have 4.5 weeks left ... until school starts, and right now we don’t have a direction,” White said. “I’m still hopeful for a solution. I certainly am hopeful that it will come in a way that is more expedient than through the courts. But my hope of that is dissipating.”

White said he will meet with Jindal on July 17 to further discuss a compromise.

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