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Caddo rise in graduation rate attributes to district performance gains

Caddo Parish Public Schools is graduating the highest percentage of students in its history and doing so while providing students with some of the most rigorous coursework available.

The data, released last week by the Louisiana Department of Education as part of the 2019 school performance scores, shows Caddo not only saw the highest single-year increase in the region in students graduating on time, but did so with more students earning industry-based credentials and college credits while still in high school. In total, the data shows Caddo’s graduation rate rose by 7.1 percent to 80.9 percent and put Caddo in the top five districts in the state for overall school performance growth.

The data highlighted significant gains the district made with students from diverse backgrounds graduating on time. Key to the district’s overall growth, African American students saw the highest single-year gain of nearly 9 percent across Caddo high schools.  Furthermore, Caddo saw an 8.6 percent gain in economically disadvantaged students graduating and an 8.4 percent gain in graduation rates for students with disabilities.

“Our district has made a purposeful effort to not only ensure our students are graduating on time and on grade level but those students walking across the stage have received the classes and training for them to be successful in pursuing the future of their dreams,” said Dr. T. Lamar Goree, Superintendent of Caddo Schools. “It isn’t enough to provide just core courses. We must provide windows into the world and allow students to explore their interests. I am incredibly grateful to work with a team of principals who recognize this essential component of the work we do.”

Receiving an ‘A’ from the state for the district’s strength of diploma, Caddo was commended for its work in ensuring district high schools provided rigorous, high-quality opportunities for students to prepare for both college and career. Expanding access to top-tier opportunities for Caddo students came in the form of additional Advanced Placement courses, increased dual enrollment partnerships with colleges and universities and growth in JumpStart-aligned career and technical education pathways. In total, Caddo’s efforts resulted in an annual increase of 8.9 points.

Launched in 2017 at Caddo Magnet High, C.E. Byrd High and Captain Shreve High, the Advanced Placement Capstone program offers a premier series of courses designed to allow students to think critically and conduct deep, thought-provoking research on their topics of interest. These courses, which are only provided after an extensive vetting process by The College Board, have allowed these three outstanding Caddo schools to improve their graduation rates, the strength of their diploma and offer an Advanced Placement Diploma for Capstone students.

“The opportunities being provided to students in Caddo come with real outcomes after high school – for both college-bound students and career-bound students,” said Ken Bradford, Assistant Superintendent in the Office of Student Opportunities at the Louisiana Department of Education. “Students going to college are taking a true college preparatory curriculum with college credit experiences while in high school and have every chance possible to receive TOPS. Students earning Jump Start industry-based credentials are graduating workforce ready and are also being prepared to continue post-secondary opportunities to advance their skill or craft.”

Leading the district in growth in both strength of diploma and graduation rate was Woodlawn High School. The school saw a single-year increase in its strength of diploma of 9.35 percent thanks in part to an early college partnership with Southern University Shreveport which allows students to simultaneously pursue their high school diploma and an associate’s degree. Additionally, Woodlawn saw its graduation rate rise by 12.4 percent. A school which as recently as five years ago was facing state takeover, Woodlawn is part of Caddo’s Transformation Zone where the school climate has turned around through strengthened teacher supports as part of the Teacher Advancement Model (TAP) and individualized graduation plans for students.

“It’s a team effort to get to this point,” said Dr. Grady Smith, Principal of Woodlawn. “Every teacher, staff member and student whether past or present plays a part in this story and the work we are doing. We are far from done but proud of what we have accomplished together.”

At Huntington High School, the Raiders expanded dual enrollment opportunities and changed the structure of Advanced Placement coursework to see the school increase its strength of diploma by 7.95 percent. Overall, this helped Huntington increase its graduation rate by 11.5 percent in a single year.

"It’s not enough to focus on your juniors and seniors and getting them to that finish line,” said Dr. Matthew Mitchell, Principal of Huntington High School. “We are intentional from the time we welcome our freshmen in providing every certification opportunity and access to coursework to make sure they are making the most of their time while here.”