BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Louisiana’s four-year high school graduation rate has surpassed 80% for the first time. And the graduation rate for African American students in the state has – for the first time – surpassed the national average.
That news was met with applause during a Wednesday news conference by education officials on the steps of the state Capitol in Baton Rouge.
Louisiana Education Department figures show an overall graduation rate for 2018 of 81.4%. That’s up from 78.2% in 2017.
Black students’ graduation rate jumped from just under 73% in 2017 to more than 78% last year. The most recent national average is 77.8%.
The figures also show more Louisiana graduates earning early college credit or industry career credentials. And, more qualified for higher education aid.
LOUISIANA DEPT. OF EDUCATION PRESS RELEASE
BATON ROUGE, La. — More Louisiana students than ever before graduated from high school in four years in 2018, according to results released today by the state’s Department of Education. More graduates than ever before also achieved college credits and highly valued industry credentials, and earned Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) scholarships, making the Class of 2018 the highest achieving in state history.
- Graduation Rate: The state’s high school cohort graduation rate increased from 78.2 percent in 2017 to 81.4 percent in 2018. The graduation rate has improved 9.1 percentage points since 2012, a faster pace over time than the national growth of only 4.6 percentage points. Louisiana graduated 40,124 students last year, up from 39,395 in 2017 and 35,332 in 2012.
- College and Career Credentials: The number of graduates earning early college credit and industry career credentials valued in high-wage industries climbed since the previous year, from 23,932 to 24,835. The number of graduates earning such credits and credentials has climbed by 6,385 since 2013. The percent of Louisiana’s graduation cohort earning college and career credentials increased from 47.5 percent in 2017 to 50.4 percent in 2018, and the credential rate has improved by 12.9 percentage points since 2013.
- TOPS Eligibility: The Class of 2018 saw growth in the number of students who were eligible for TOPS scholarships. Whereas in 2012, 16,289 students were eligible for a TOPS award, in 2018, 21,280 students were eligible for the award, a 31 percent increase.
These record-breaking gains come on the heels of nationally-recognized efforts in Louisiana to strengthen accountability standards and diploma requirements; expand the Jump Start program; support opportunities for students to earn postsecondary credits in high school through programs like dual enrollment, Advanced Placement (AP), College Level Examination Program (CLEP), and International Baccalaureate; align coursework with college admissions and TOPS requirements; and encourage financial aid planning.
“The positive results announced today reflect many years of relentless focus in our schools, and more progress is on the horizon,” said State Superintendent John White. “As we celebrate extraordinary increases in high school graduation, postsecondary credentials, and TOPS, let us re-commit ourselves to assuring a path to what comes next for every graduate.”
Other highlights from the Class of 2018:
- Louisiana’s African-American graduation rate is, for the first time, higher than the national average. More than 78 percent of African-American students graduated in this cohort, up from 72.9 percent in 2017 and nearly 66 percent in 2013. The latest average national graduation rate is 77.8 percent.
- Historically disadvantaged student groups are narrowing the graduation achievement gap with their peers. Nearly 76 percent of economically disadvantaged students graduated in this cohort, up from about 73 percent in 2017 and nearly 68 percent in 2013. Nearly 60 percent of students with disabilities graduated in this cohort, up from 52.6 percent in 2017 and less than 37 percent in 2013.
- More students than ever before earned Advanced college and career credentials. Of the students in the Class of 2018 who earned credentials, 15 percent earned Advanced credentials, such as passing an AP or CLEP test, or earning a National Center for Construction Education and Research, or NCCER, level-two credential in a craft trade. In 2013, less than 4 percent of graduates earned Advanced credentials.
- A record number of students in the Class of 2018 submitted the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to fund their postsecondary pursuits. Eighty-four percent of public high school seniors submitted the FAFSA by the July 1 priority deadline in 2018, an increase of 17 percentage points from the previous year. The Class of 2018 was the first to graduate under the state’s Financial Aid Access Policy. To date, about 74 percent of the Class of 2019 has completed the FAFSA. Louisiana is currently No.2 in the nation for the number of FAFSA completions.
Among the school systems making considerable progress is Iberville Parish, where the graduation rate was 93.7 percent in 2018, up from 86.2 percent in 2017 and 59.9 percent in 2012.
“The Iberville Parish School System is increasing the graduation rate and strength of diploma by making high school more meaningful through relevant career and college pathways for our students,” said Iberville Parish Schools Superintendent Arthur Joffrion. “A 93.7 percent graduation rate, coupled with 69 percent of our students graduating with a Basic or Advanced credential, is much to celebrate. We are proud of our students, parents, school employees and board for their diligence in ensuring students graduate from high school prepared for their chosen future whether that be college or the workforce.”
While Louisiana has made great strides in the last six years to improve graduation rates for all students, gaps still exist in the number of historically disadvantaged students graduating on time and with credentials. Louisiana will address these gaps by:
- identifying and supporting struggling high schools and awarding them funding to implement school redesign plans;
- supporting high schools to serve a rapidly growing English learner population, including through the English Learner Guidebook;
- expanding Jump Start pathways to better meet Louisiana workforce needs, particularly in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics;
- utilizing federal funds to expand courses not otherwise available in high schools, with a focus on early college coursework and career and technical education; and
- providing students, who are on track to graduate but not on track to participate in postsecondary college or training program, with a one-year extension to attain an associate degree, pre-apprenticeship or an advanced industry-based credential through the Louisiana Extension Academy.