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Governor Jindal Announces Dropout Prevention Program in Louisiana

Press Release

Location: Marksville, LA

Governor Jindal Announces Dropout Prevention Program in Louisiana

Receives National Award, Policy Proposals to Further Reduce Dropout Rate

Today, Governor Bobby Jindal joined Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG) President Ken Smith to announce that Louisiana's JAG (JAG-LA) program has received the "5 of 5" Award for the class of 2008, a national performance award given to states and local JAG sites for achieving or surpassing five performance outcomes. JAG is a dropout prevention and recovery program designed to help at-risk students or out of-of-school youth earn a high school diploma or GED. The announcement was held at Marksville High School in Avoyelles Parish, one of 15 local JAG sites to also receive the "5 of 5" award.

The Governor also announced key initiatives to eliminate low-performing programs to give the state the flexibility to expand and grow high-performing programs like JAG-LA, and further reduce the dropout rate in Louisiana.

Governor Jindal said, "If we're serious about growing our economy and giving our children opportunities to pursue their dreams right here at home, we have to give them a great education. Our students simply cannot succeed without an education -- whether that is reflected by a GED, an industry-based certification, a high school diploma, or better yet, a postsecondary certificate or college degree.

"That's why JAG is a vital part of our efforts to strengthen our educational system and prepare our students to be productive citizens. This award is a testament to the hard work of both the students who participate in the program and the specialists who tirelessly dedicate themselves to helping them succeed.

"We have a lot more work ahead of us, but the good news is that we are on the right track to meet the challenges facing us in improving our education system and producing positive results for our students. We owe it to our students to do everything possible to help them succeed -- and we will not let up on this commitment."

For the announcement, the Governor was also joined by Louisiana Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek, Avoyelles Parish Superintendent of Education Dwayne Lemoine and Marksville High School Principal Sue Voinshe.

JAG President Ken Smith said, "The Jobs for Louisiana Graduates program has exceeded national expectations and achieved our highest national performance outcomes. We are pleased to recognize their achievement of our highest award, the "5 of 5" Award for the class of 2008."

State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek said, "We are honored that Louisiana's state program has earned JAG's prestigious 5 of 5 Award for the Class of 2008 and that 15 JAG programs and ten JAG Job Specialists across our state are also being recognized. These awards are a testament to the commitment and good work of our students, program specialists, community groups and businesses who have contributed to the tremendous success of these programs. While we are extremely pleased to receive this honor, the greatest tribute to our JAG program is the thousands of students who have benefitted from the educational resources and work-based learning experiences that are inherent in the design of the JAG model. Ninety-three percent of the participants in our in-school program earn a high school diploma. And JAG allows them to begin their future prepared to thrive in a viable career."

LA-JAG Program

The "5 of 5 Award" is given only to states and local JAG sites for reaching or surpassing five performance outcomes. In the 2008-2009 school year, the LA-JAG program:

Achieved a graduation rate of 93 percent -- above the national standard of 90
* Achieved an 85 percent rate for positive outcomes -- above the nation standard of 80
* Achieved an employment rate of 65 percent -- above the national standard of 60 for job placement and those in military service
* Achieved a full-time jobs rate of 79 percent -- above the national standard of 60
* Achieved a full-time placement rate of 96 percent -- above the national standard of 80

In addition to the Avoyelles Parish School System, the following local JAG sites also received the "5 of 5" award:

Allen Parish Media Center, Allen Parish
* Andrew Price Alternative School, Terrebonne Parish
* Assumption High School, Assumption Parish
* Bonnabel High School, Jefferson Parish
* Caldwell High School, Caldwell Parish
* E. S. Aiken Optional School, Rapides Parish
* Lake Providence Senior High School, East Carroll Parish
* Livonia High School, Pointe Coupee Parish
* Louisiana Technical College-Baton Rouge
* Louisiana Technical College-Lafayette
* L.W. Higgins, Jefferson Parish
* Plaquemine High School, Iberville Parish
* Leesville High School, Vernon Parish
* Wossman High School, City of Monroe

JAG- LA was recognized at the 2009 JAG National Training Seminar for:

* The Senior Program -- as one of the top three high performing state organizations
* The JAG Leadership Program -- as a high performing state organization
* The Combined Program -- as one of the top three high performing state organizations in full-time placement
* Finishing in third place in the JAG NTS Marketplace Achievement Award -- for providing an outstanding exhibit and for sharing best practices with other JAG state organizations

Governor Jindal said that only about 66 percent of students in Louisiana are graduating high school on time, and each year, nearly 16,000 students drop out of school. Additionally, the Department of Education recently announced the 2009 statewide school performance score, which was an improvement from 86.3 last year -- now up to 91. However, the Governor said that a score of 91 means that one-third of students are still performing below grade level.

Governor Jindal said, "Too many of our students are behind in reading and math before they even leave elementary school, and what's worse is that they enter middle and high school without the remediation and career counseling needed to prepare them to compete in the global economy."

In order to eliminate these problems, Governor Jindal said the state has invested significant funds into dropout prevention programs, including JAG, a new statewide literacy program, high school redesign initiatives and expanded high school curriculum options.

In fact, for the 2009-2010 school year Louisiana has a total of 60 JAG programs in 31 parishes, including 19 in-school programs, 16 out-of-school programs, eight middle school programs and 17 programs under the Educational Mission to Prepare Louisiana's Youth initiative (EMPLoY).

Policy Initiatives Governor Jindal Announced to Address High Dropout Rate

First, Governor Jindal said he is working with BESE to discontinue the pre-GED/Skills Options program and require local school districts to replace it with approved dropout prevention programs modeled after JAG.

In 2000, the Board of Elementary & Secondary Education (BESE) adopted a policy requiring all local school districts to offer a pre-GED/Skills Options program for struggling students. Governor Jindal said that while he believes the intent of this program was good, this program has been consistently low performing.

Fewer than ten percent of students who enter the Options program actually earn a GED. In the 2008-2009 year, only seven percent of students who entered the Option program actually earned a GED, compared with 27 percent in the first semester of the EMPLoY pilot program, which is expected to soon reach 50 percent -- and 50 percent of students earning certificates from the out-of-school JAG program. Only 3.5 percent of students in Options earned an industry-based certification, compared to 11 percent in EMPLoY; and only eight percent of Options students enrolled in a work-based experience, compared to 45 percent of those in EMPLoY.

Recently, the Commission on Streamlining Government also recognized that the Options program was not generating positive results and voted to eliminate the program.

Second, the Governor said he is also working with BESE to require local school districts to redirect MFP funds currently supporting Options programs to dropout prevention programs modeled after JAG and to annually report on the expenditure of such funds and performance of these new programs.

Earlier this year, BESE approved guidelines for dropout prevention programs for the career diploma pathway, using JAG and EMPLoY as models. The Governor said that many districts have already begun to develop these programs, so this transition should complement efforts already underway.

Third, the Governor said state funding for dropout prevention should be tied to performance. The state is currently providing over $3 million, using Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds, to assist districts in implementing JAG and EMPLoY.

Governor Jindal said, "We must be assured that these investments are supporting high-quality programs with positive outcomes for students."

The Governor said that any available state funds allocated for dropout prevention should go to support only high-quality programs with evidence of strong performance and those with low performance outcomes will not be eligible for state support.

Fourth, Governor Jindal is proposing to tighten adult education waivers. Specifically, he said that school districts should be allowed to enroll 16 year-old students in adult education only if their program has a record of strong performance.

The Governor said far too many 16 year-old students who are likely capable of earning a high school diploma were opting to enter a GED pathway. In some districts, approximately 20 to 25 percent of Options program students were 16 yeas old -- and Governor Jindal said many were not even obtaining a GED, or acquiring skills to be successful in the workplace.

BESE recently took action to tighten waivers allowed for 16 year olds to leave the high school diploma pathway, allowing only students with extreme circumstances to pursue a GED and keeping more young people in school and on the path to graduation.

The Governor said that even more can be done to ensure the success of these students by allowing schools districts to enroll 16 year olds in adult education programs only if their program has a record of strong performance.

Governor Jindal said, "The bottom line is that the ability to offer waivers to younger students must be tied to the success of the adult education and GED programs for graduating students. If students do not have a high probability of success, we cannot allow them to go down that path. We must close the gaps that too many Louisiana students are currently falling through on their path to get a great education."

Fifth and finally, Governor Jindal said he will work with the Legislature, BESE and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) to pursue legislation officially moving the adult education division from the Louisiana Department of Education to LCTCS.

Currently, adult education programs are administered by the Louisiana Department of Education. The Governor said that while these programs do serve some out-of-school youth, they are designed to assist adults in becoming literate, obtain knowledge and skills for employment and self-sufficiency, and complete their secondary school education.

Governor Jindal said, "Because this program serves adults, we need to couple adult education with job training -- which falls outside of the Louisiana Department of Education's core mission of serving elementary and secondary school students and is more appropriate for the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. By moving these educational services to LCTCS, we can not only better-serve these adult students, but will also give them more access to career counseling and job training resources they might not have at a high school."

In fact, a recent study by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems concluded that LCTCS was better suited to serve this population, and the Commission on Streamlining Government also recently to recommend this move.

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