Dropout Dilemma: Louisiana’s Education Crisis »»»Published: September 21, 2011

American Graduate - Let's make it happen!

Nearly 15,000 Louisiana students drop out of school each year.
Press Release

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?

Update 11/28/2012: Louisiana Public Square focuses on Confronting Louisiana's Dropout Dilemma (Click to view)



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. The centerpiece of these activities will be American Graduate Day which will air on LPB on Saturday, September 22 from Noon to 7PM. This unprecedented full-day broadcast by WNET in New will include special celebrity guests, relevant spokespeople and compelling stories from the students themselves.

Each half hour will feature a 23 minute segment about a national organization working to keep kids on track and in schools. In addition, LPB’s Education Reporter Sue Lincoln will create six new segments that will air during the broadcast featuring an interview with State Education Superintendent John White, profiles of the Diplomas Now programs at Belaire High and Broadmoor and Capitol Middle Schools in East Baton Rouge Parish, and a look at the Louisiana Workforce Commission’s Youth program that serves students in and out of school.

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.
For more information, contact Bob Neese at 1-800-272-8161 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Update 07/17/12: 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!


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.


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.


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.


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.

The latest figures available from the Louisiana State Department of Education indicates that Louisiana’s graduation has increased more than 4% between 2006-2007 school year and the 2010-2011 school year. State figures show that the graduation rate increased from 66.3 % to 70.9% during that period while the dropout rate for students in grades decreased from 19% to 14.6% during that same time period. Even with the improvement, the state’s graduation rate is still almost 4% behind the national average.

Cohort Graduation Rate64.8 percent66.3 percent65.9 percent66.6 percent67.2 percent70.9 percent
Cohort Dropout Rate20.6 percent19.0 percent18.6 percent17.3 percent16.9 percent14.6 percent
Annual Dropout Rate (Grades 9-12)6.9 percent6.9 percent7 percent6.3 percent4.6 percent4.1 percent
Annual Dropout Rate (Grades 7-12)5.6 percent5.2 percent5.2 percent4.8 percent3.5 percent3.1 percent

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Funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting through the National Center for Media Engagement.

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