The Louisiana Department of Education has released the Class of 2018 four-year cohort graduation rates. The data for New Orleans shows that our schools are graduating more students, preparing more students to qualify for merit-based aid, and continuing to improve outcomes for historically underserved students.

More New Orleans students are graduating:

  • Since 2004, our cohort graduation rate has risen by 24 percentage points, from 54% to 78%.

  • Our graduation rate increased by five percentage points between 2017 and 2018.

More New Orleans graduates are qualifying for merit-based college aid:

  • The number of New Orleans graduates qualifying for TOPS state scholarship awards aimed at two- and four-year colleges* increased by 10% from 2017 to 2018.

New Orleans schools are improving outcomes for underserved students:

  • Economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities from New Orleans outperformed their peers across the state in 2018, continuing a trend going back more than five years.

  • For almost all groups of historically underserved students identified by the state, graduation rates improved for the city’s Class of 2018 compared to the Class of 2017.

This Progress is the Result of Strategic Action

Schools strive for high graduation rates; they mean that more of their students have greater opportunities after high school. When graduation rates are low, our schools know that too many of their students are not prepared for college and career, too many students have missed significant portions of the school year, and too many students were unable to complete state requirements. In recent years in New Orleans, our schools have made a serious, focused effort to help more students graduate. As we spoke to school leaders about the strategies they used, a few tactics stood out:

  • Schools focused on attendance outreach, as students who do not meet attendance thresholds are unable to graduate.

    • Early, frequent, and intentional attendance outreach can make a strong impact on graduation rates.

    • Such outreach starts with freshmen — when schools are diligent in connecting with families and students around attendance early on, they see better results through senior year.

    • Schools employ specific tactics to both get to the root of poor attendance and to address it, such as making personal phone calls to students if they missed three days in a row.

  • Schools worked on strengthening school culture so that students wanted to show up each day.

    • When students feel good at school, they are less likely to miss days and are able to learn more, which helps them meet both attendance and academic requirements for graduation.

    • Schools focus on academic support as well as bolstering extracurricular offerings and the school events and routines that make high school fun.

    • From marching in Mardi Gras parades, to playing at football games with families and alumni in the stands, to acting in school plays or performing at Jazz Fest, our students participate in a vibrant school environment.

  • The city has expanded quality career and technical education (CTE) offerings.These high-interest, high-impact programs draw students to be at school each day and provide students with different ways to learn and grow. They provide concrete paths to multiple options for life after high school.

    • The community has come together around CTE: The YouthForce NOLAcollaborative — which includes the Orleans Parish School Board, Greater New Orleans, Inc., the Urban League of Louisiana, and the New Orleans Career Center — coordinates system-wide efforts connecting New Orleans public school students to economic opportunities.

    • As a result, schools citywide have been increasing their CTE offerings in recent years. By this fall, 100% of New Orleans public high schools will offer such programming.

Abramson Sci Academy, International High School, and InspireNOLA Charter Schools are among the schools and networks with strong results for the Class of 2018. We talked with them about the approaches behind their success.

Rhonda Dale, Principal, Abramson Sci Academy:

“Helping more scholars graduate means supporting them from the very start of their high school career. Our team focused on each individual scholar to assess what they needed to be successful. Then, we used research-based interventions to support those who were struggling. We hired someone to be the nexus between students, families, and teachers and help coordinate the execution on supports needed for student success.”

Sean Wilson, Head of School, International High School of New Orleans:

“We have focused on providing access to various graduation pathways, aligning the curriculum with the state’s requirement, and focusing on each student’s specific needs towards graduation.”

Jamar McKneely, Chief Executive Officer, InspireNOLA Charter Schools (Edna Karr High School, Eleanor McMain High School):

We invested in parents by including them in conversations about graduation requirements and post-secondary plans; we started early and continued frequent communication so that parents were informed and involved. Then, we increased college exposure and tried to make it a tangible future reality for students; they went on college trips, attended a college fair, and more students participated in dual enrollment courses. Lastly, every student received individualized counseling that included data tracking and progress monitoring that was specific just to them.”

Celebrating Success: Ten Outstanding High Schools

Congratulations to the following schools that are excelling in serving Black and economically disadvantaged students, as well as their student bodies at large! The overall cohort graduation rates for these ten schools are above 85%, as are their rates for Black and economically disadvantaged students.


Individual School Performance: Class of 2018 Cohort Graduation Rates

2017-18: A Year of Progress

These results are not simply numbers. They represent real opportunities in real students’ lives. In 2004, just over half of our seniors walked across the graduation stage after completing high school on time; today, over three-quarters of our seniors met this milestone. That is significant. Of course, there is still a long way to go; we must strive for 100% graduation rates, and high college-going rates afterwards. But there is much to celebrate here, and from the 2017-18 school year at large. The majority of our schools are making progress. There are a higher percentage of students in A or B schools than ever before. Alongside the Class of 2018 graduation data, these significant accomplishments bring us immense hope, and drive the momentum that makes New Orleans stronger each year.


For more information, please refer to the Louisiana Department of Education’s press release as well as the following:

*The Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) is the State’s merit-based scholarship for students attending postsecondary institutions. There are four types of TOPS awards; the Opportunity, Performance, and Honors awards are aimed at students attending two- and four-year colleges, and the Tech award is aimed at students attending technical and occupational institutions.

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