PAR Releases High School Dropout Report – A Future at Risk
The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR) announces the release of its in-depth examination of the state’s efforts to reduce Louisiana’s high school dropout rate. With nearly one of every six high school freshmen dropping out before graduation, Louisiana has one of the nation’s highest dropout rates.
“A Future at Risk: Meeting the Challenge of Louisiana’s High School Dropout Problem” finds that while the state has developed a multi-faceted plan that combines proven programs and potentially useful innovations to address the problem, what it needs are adequate resources and firm commitments from state leaders and local school districts to implement these measures.
“State officials have identified numerous programs to combat Louisiana’s high dropout rate,” said PAR President Robert Travis Scott. “The challenge now is implementation. Political and education leaders must emphasize actions over words at both the state and local levels.”
This wide-ranging report examines the track record of the state’s efforts to combat its high dropout rate and low graduation rate, assesses which programs have been successful and offers recommendations for the next steps forward. The report also serves as a valuable resource for information on dropout prevention programs, high school curriculum tracks and how local districts are performing and initiating their own efforts.
The need to reduce the state’s high school dropout rate has never been more critical. In addition to the personal grief many of them encounter, student dropouts are costly to the state both because of the lost potential wages and additional public services they tend to require. Even a modest decrease in the dropout rate would mean better welfare for individuals and the state.
The report examines the Department of Education’s “80 Percent Graduation Strategy,” which was developed in response to the state Legislature’s mandate to reach an 80 percent high school graduation rate by 2014.
“A Future at Risk” provides detailed information that allows for local district-by-district comparisons, as well as for a side-by-side look at the state’s three high school curriculum tracks. A supplemental chart illustrates how many dropout preventions each high school could contribute to help the state reach its 2014 goal.
The report details PAR’s eight recommendations as the state moves forward with its dropout prevention efforts. Three of the recommendations focus on dropout prevention strategies and urge local and state education leaders to expand those programs proven to work, consider the use of targeted funding and maintain the highest possible academic standards.
Four of the recommendations have to do with measuring the success of the state’s efforts. In particular, PAR urges the Department of Education to monitor each of the high school curriculum tracks to determine whether each is accomplishing its stated goals.
PAR is recommending that the department continue its efforts to build a comprehensive information-gathering program to measure student performance from grade to grade so that any interventions needed can be put into place as soon as possible.
The recommendations encourage local districts to take advantage of the information and analysis that will be available when the new Louisiana Education Data Repository System is fully operational and support the department’s continued efforts to build a comprehensive database warehouse that would encompass information from several state agencies.
The last recommendation urges legislators and state education leaders to focus on the cohort dropout rate as a key measure of Louisiana’s progress in combating its dropout problem and to publicize that number as much as the annual dropout rate and the cohort graduation rate so that members of the public get an accurate picture of how the state is doing.
PAR’s website at www.la-par.org contains the full report with tables and charts and the separate supplemental chart showing dropout prevention targets for each Louisiana high school. The report contains a pdf file table of dropout rates for each school district – an Excel file of this table is available upon request.