- Associated Press - Monday, July 21, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Iberville Parish School District landed at the top of the class this year in the state’s graduation rate report.

The school system logged the biggest percentage improvement in the number of students finishing high school within four years.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1wQ24rT ) the school district experienced a 14.1 percentage point increase in the Louisiana Department of Education graduation rate report.

The report says that 74 percent of Iberville Parish students in the 2012-13 school year finished high school within four years. During the previous year, the school district only saw 59.9 percent of its high school students graduate on time.

School Superintendent Ed Cancienne credit the district’s impressive performance to a specialized team of faculty and staff that includes high school principals, guidance counselors and graduation coaches.

The school board approved hiring graduation coaches three years ago.

“The guidance counselors are so busy with testing they couldn’t really get down into the trenches to address the issue,” Cancienne said. “But when we looked at the data prior to this year, we saw we needed to be more effective in that area so we created a formidable team that was able to call kids - really keep up with them. The small things really make the difference.”

Prior to this year’s graduation report, Iberville could never quite inch over the 60 percent mark. On average, the district saw only approximately half of its students completing high school within four years.

Chandler Smith, principal at Plaquemine High, said the district’s less-than-stellar graduation rates were often due to students missing the four-year benchmark because they might have missed a class credit or two.

Smith, who is heading into his third year as Plaquemine High’s principal, said a department of student services was created at the school to remedy the problem.

The department includes a data room where student records are more closely monitored, while at-risk kids are assigned to the school’s graduation coach, Hunter Markins, who serves as a mentor to keep students on track.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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