Louisiana creates new program to reduce dropout rates

By Crystal Price - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The state of Louisiana is launching a new effort to reduce dropout rates that will replace an earlier program that will be discontinued.

The new program, known as "Connections," will replace the anti-dropout push called Pre-GED/Skills Options that has been in effect since 2000.

The current options program has 6,600 students enrolled statewide and 250 students enrolled throughout Calcasieu Parish. But during the 2008-09 school year, only 7 percent of students in the options program actually obtained a General Educational Development (GED) certificate.

Patrick Deaville, Director of High School Curriculum and Instruction for Calcasieu Parish, said that the percentage of students graduating with GEDs was somewhat higher than the state's percentage.

However, Deaville said the program did fail to provide an actual high school diploma for students who were in the options program. The only two options students had were either the GED or the skills certificate.

"Their chance of graduating with a diploma was gone, therefore they could never be a graduate," said Deaville.

Students also had to be at least 16 years old and 2 years academically behind to qualify for the options program.

But through "Connections," students will have the chance to still receive either a high school diploma, GED, or skills certificate.

The program also allows students to enroll at the earlier age of 15 which will help them prepare for the iLEAP and pass their exams in order to become a freshman on time.

"Connections" will also offer accelerated remediation with student and parent meetings, a mentor log, and a regular monitoring of progress.

In 2010, the state of Louisiana was ranked 47th for high school graduation rates according to the U. S. Department of Education. The plan is geared toward improving the state's current high school graduation rate.

"When you look at the state of Louisiana just as a state and say that only two-thirds graduate on time, that other one-third of students does not disappear," said Deaville. "The most important thing that we all understand in the state of Louisiana is that every child has got to have is a fair opportunity to finish high school and that is truly worthwhile."

The last day for students to enroll in the current Pre-GED Skills Option program is May 31st. "Connections" is expected to be implemented in August 2011.

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