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Louisiana Pilot Successful in Reducing Local Drop-out Rate

11/8/2010 12:54 PM -

One week before The Harris Foundation completed the Dream Tour in Baton Rouge, LA, the Louisiana Department of Education announced that state officials’ focus on eighth- and ninth-grade students has proven effective in reducing dropouts and increasing test scores.

            A report presented to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education showed that Louisiana’s three-year pilot effort, titled High School Redesign: Ninth Grade Initiative, has been successful.
The program is aimed at supporting schools in their implementation of reforms to better provide students with the personal attention they need to have a successful first year of high school; earn an on-time promotion to the 10th grade; and prepare for continued success in the 10th grade and beyond.

            Pam Pruden, a ninth-grade coordinator at one of the participating schools, said she believes the relationships teachers strive to develop with their students has been the key to their success.

         “Our teachers get to know their students,” she said. “They make hundreds of phone calls and have hundreds of parent conferences every year to build the lines of communication with parents and students … [It] doesn’t cost anything, and it’s good for us and it’s good for them.”

         According to the report, the ninth grade promotion rate increased statewide by 7.7 percent in schools with ninth grade academies during the 2009-10 school year. Dropouts decreased 1.5 percent, attendance increased 1.2 percent, and the rate of students failing one or more courses decreased by 11.8 percent.

         Achievement on standardized tests also increased, with students scoring basic or above in English Language Arts on the iLEAP test increasing by 4.8 percent, and students scoring basic or above in Math increasing 4.1 percent.

      And finally, discipline referrals decreased. Students suspended from schools with ninth grade academies decreased by 3.8 percent while students expelled increased a mere .02 percent.

         These statistics are extremely encouraging, given that nationwide, one student drops out of high school every 26 seconds, totaling more than 1.2 million each year, and 30 percent of those who do stay in school don’t graduate on time. They also support the founding principles of THF’s Listening to America educational forum, which has been traveling the county in tandem with the Dream Tour since 2008, providing a unique venue for open dialogue about barriers and obstacles faced by today’s students, as well as the key strategies and partnerships that local communities believe will help them succeed in spite of these challenges.

         If High School Redesign has been successful in Louisiana, it stands to reason that like initiatives could yield similar results in other states. Through the type of discourse encouraged during the Listening to America forums, THF is acting as a catalyst for change in this country; learning about successful programs positively affecting students and their communities, and sharing these stories with the rest of the nation. To watch a video of THF’s preliminary findings, click here.

      By the way, in Baton Rouge Dr. Harris was awarded a key to city, served as Honorary Mayor for the Day, and Mayor Kip Holden proclaimed October 27th Bernard Harris Day. We applaud the effort that Louisiana is doing to make a difference!


                Dr. Harris with Mayor Kip Holden receiving his Key to Baton Rouge

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