The release of annual high school graduation rates in Louisiana will be delayed this spring due to COVID-19, a state Department of Education spokeswoman confirmed. The rates, calculated from the prior year, in this case the class of 2019, are generally released in the spring. 

“We had to postpone our data certification period. We are aiming for July,” spokeswoman Sydni Dunn wrote in an email last month and confirmed Tuesday.

In response to a question about whether the process had been postponed, a state-issued FAQ guide for school officials said the following: “Cohort graduation data certification has been tentatively rescheduled for May 13. Accountability contacts will receive information via individual emails when the schedule is confirmed.”

The will start a process that relies heavily on documentation from local school administrators to verify how many students graduated and other things about them, Dunn explained. It can require school officials to enter buildings and find students’ records to copy for the state. With schools closed, this proved a challenge. 

“The data certification process was delayed because any changes to data that are requested in this process must include documentation. In addition, we audit exit codes for out-of-state, nonpublic and home study transfers,” Dunn wrote. “These transactions are dependent on paper in many cases, which means that someone at the school must locate the documents and upload them to us.”

Then the department must process the data.

In New Orleans, the rates are particularly important because they make up a significant portion of high schools’ annual state letter grades, which the district uses to decide which charters stay open and which close. But this fall, those state ratings won’t come out. Gov. John Bel Edwards has waived the letter grades along with other annual performance measures because in-person classes will have been suspended for at least two months. 

Because graduation data lags a year, it may be one of few updated data points available next fall. Without testing data, it’s unclear what the district will base charter renewal decisions on this fall. 

Last year and the year before, graduation data was released in mid-May

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...