Dropout Dilemma: Louisiana’s Education Crisis »»»Published: September 19, 2014
American Graduate - Let's make it happen!
Nearly 15,000 Louisiana students drop out of school each year.
Despite recent improvements, Louisiana still ranks third from the bottom, nationally, for its high school graduation rate.
So, why do so many Louisiana students give up on their education?
And what can the state and local communities do to successfully combat the problem?
9/27/2014 American Graduate Day:
Alex Curtis entered the Fontainebleau High School Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG) program as a second year freshman with a history of insubordination and low grades. Part way through his second year, Jeffery Boren, Alex’s JAG specialist, started thinking about removing him from the program due to a strong lack of respect for Mr. Boren, JAG students and the JAG program in general. Mr. Boren says, “I felt like I would regret the decision to cut him and I felt like I would regret the decision to keep him.”
Alex continued to spend time in the disciplinarian's office, but he passed enough classes to have a chance to graduate in four years if his senior year became productive. He had to pass 9 classes in one year when he had never passed 7. Mr. Boren says, “He still had a chip on his shoulder but managed to reach the point where he saw the finish line was actually reachable.” That year, he attended the JAG Career Development Conference (CDC) where he led his CDC group to winning the chant contest and received outstanding CDC leadership recognition. With the support of JAG, Alex ultimately managed to pass all 9 classes and graduate from high school in his fourth year, on time.
Alex currently works on an offshore oil rig. Mr. Boren says, “At the beginning of this school year, he contacted me to talk about being involved in this year's JAG program, claiming it was the program that turned him around. At that lunch meeting, Alex made a sizable financial donation to the JAG program and agreed to be the keynote speaker for our annual Installation Ceremony.”
Thanks to Alex, Jeffery and the Jobs for America’s Graduates Louisiana program for “making it happen!”
American Graduate Day returns for its third year on September 27, 2014. This live national, multi-platform broadcast event focuses on the individuals and organizations working in communities across the country to keep students on the path to graduation.
LPB is joining with public television stations around the country to help increase awareness of the dropout problem and what programs are helping to solve them.
Each half hour will feature a 23 minute segment about a national organization working to keep kids on track and in schools. Shauna Sanford, LPB news anchor will interview JAG – Louisiana specialist Jeffery Boren from Fontainebleau High School in Mandeville and JAG-Louisiana graduate Alex Curtis.
It’s all part of “American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen.” a public media initiative supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting – to help students stay on the path to on-time high school graduation and future success.. The most important element of American Graduate Day is the participation of community-based organizations (CBO). LPB’s partners include Education’s Next Horizon and the Louisiana Workforce Commission. Nationally, WNET will provide an 800-telephone number and various online destinations, including the organizations’ websites, for viewers to get more information on how to become involved in the American Graduate initiative. This will result in greater awareness and community support for their initiatives.
From FRONTLINE's "Middle School Moment": --Bob Balfanz from Johns Hopkins University found that "The data showed that if a 6th grade child in a high poverty attends school less than 80 percent of the time, or fails math or English or receives an unsatisfactory behavior grade in a core course that absent effective intervention there is a 75 percent chance that they will drop out of high school. “Louisiana Public Square” traveled to Shreveport in October to partner with Red River Radio and explore “Dropout Dilemma: Louisiana’s Education Crisis” on Wednesday, October 26, 2011, at 7 p.m. on LPB HD. View the program here!
PUBLIC AFFAIRS RESEARCH COUNCIL RECOMMENDATIONS
In its October 2011 report “A Future at Risk: Meeting the Challenge of Louisiana’s High School Dropout Problem,” PAR made several recommendations covering three areas of concern: Strategies for Dropout Prevention; Measuring for Outcomes and Interventions; and Clearer Communication with the Public.
STRATEGIES FOR DROPOUT PREVENTION
1. The state and local school districts should put resources behind dropout programs that show a track record of progress. In particular the administration and the Legislature should take the next steps needed to expand, renew or bring up to scale those programs proving to be effective.
2. The governor, the Legislature and school districts should consider targeted dollars toward dropout prevention if they want improved results. The track record so far shows that effective dropout programs have been backed by targeted grants and federal programs. An increase in the state’s general financial support of local school districts would not necessarily ensure that districts would use the money to do their part to combat the dropout problem.
3. While the state should continue to lead the effort for dropout prevention in Louisiana by setting goals, upholding academic standards, tracking data, offering guidance and financially supporting key programs, state leaders and the Legislature should follow a strategy of emphasizing the role of local school districts in initiating and implementing programs to improve graduation rates. The state should require each local school system to pursue an effective plan that addresses the unique needs of its population.
MEASURING FOR OUTCOMES AND INTERVENTIONS
4. Proven outcomes should drive the state’s policy in selecting which curriculum tracks to offer in high schools. The Department of Education should monitor the three high school curriculum tracks to see how many students are enrolling in each one and how many are graduating. The state should collect vital information about where students go after graduation, whether it’s into the workplace, technical or community college, an apprenticeship or a four-year college. The information should be available to the public in a form that respects individual privacy but that also allows the public to see what progress is being made.
5. The Department of Education should implement a comprehensive information-gathering program that follows student performance from pre-kindergarten through at least one year beyond high school and identifies at-risk pupils. Such a program would include the already existing grade level expectations, which describe the knowledge and skills students are supposed to acquire in each grade, as well as the new “common core standards” the department plans to adopt. Those standards are part of a national initiative led by the National Governors Association to increase the rigor of the country’s academics. The data also would be useful in determining appropriate support and intervention measures.
6. The Department of Education should encourage local districts and schools to take full advantage of the information and analysis that will be available when the new Louisiana Education Data Repository System is fully operational and use that data to make the best instructional and intervention decisions possible for every student. In addition, the department should pursue funding to enhance the system.
7. The Department of Education should continue its efforts to build a comprehensive database warehouse that would encompass information from several state agencies — including the Department of Education, the Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Health and Hospitals, the Office of Juvenile Justice, the Board of Regents and the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
CLEARER COMMUNICATION WITH THE PUBLIC
Education officials and the Legislature should focus on the cohort dropout rate as a key measure of the state’s progress in dealing with dropouts and publicize that figure as much as the annual dropout rate and the cohort graduation rate. The state Department of Education’s website could be improved substantially to provide clearer navigation and more useful information for local schools, districts and members of the general public.