The Dropout Struggle

Pre-Katrina, the state measured the annual dropout rate for each district by analyzing the October 1 student counts to determine how many students dropped out from one year to the next. Back in 2005, New Orleans had an annual dropout rate of 11.4%, compared to a state average of 7%. (For every 100 high school students enrolled in 2004, 11.4 of them dropped out of school by 2005 – a total of 2139 students!) This was the third worst dropout rate in the state behind two small rural parishes – Red River and East Carroll. To view the 2004-2005 dropout report, click here.

Louisiana is now using an “adjusted freshman cohort graduation rate” that tracks a precise set of students over 4 years to determine the percentage of on-time graduates. New Orleans’ first 4-year cohort since the storm graduated this spring. Unfortunately, when the state releases this data next year, the low freshman enrollment in 2006-2007 and continued student mobility right after the storm means the 4-year cohort will likely be a small part of the entire senior class and won’t accurately measure how well New Orleans is doing keeping students in school. To view K-12 student enrollment numbers since Katrina, click here.

Given that New Orleans has historically had a dropout problem, it is important to know whether or not we are doing a better job keeping kids in school.

The constantly changing student enrollment makes it difficult to make comparisons year to year. There are still families returning to the city that increase the enrollment numbers, and a loss of students could be partially due to families moving out of town as well as from students dropping out.

For example, New Orleans had 2318 seniors at the start of this school year (October 2009), but had more seniors – 2464 – by the end of the school year (May 2010). So, while it is very likely some seniors dropped out of school in 2010, we still had a net increase in seniors due to mid-year enrollees.

In the new system of schools, neither the RSD, OPSB nor the state has assumed responsibility for tracking students across schools, nor have they implemented any strategies to “recapture” dropouts. At a minimum, Educate Now! hopes the Louisiana Department of Education will provide some immediate data to shed light on this issue. New Orleans needs to determine if we have a problem, and if so, begin measuring it in “real time” and implementing strategies to combat it.