According to enrollment data gathered by the National Student Clearinghouse, 74 percent of graduates from St. Charles Parishís class of 2010 enrolled in college within two years with 50 percent going to four-year programs and 24 percent going to two-year programs.
Rachel Allemand, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment, said it is important for the school district to continue to focus on placing graduates in some form of secondary education because 51 percent of jobs in Louisiana are anticipated to require education after high school by the year 2018.
"A high school diploma alone wonít get you the jobs that it used to get," Allemand said.
In that vein, the Louisiana Department of Education will start requiring all high school students to take the ACT next year to assess their college readiness.
According to Susan Boudreaux, school to career specialist, some St. Charles Parish students are already at an advantage when it comes to post-secondary education.
"We hope that what students and parents are learning is that every career at any level is going to need continuing education," Boudreaux said.
She said St. Charles Parish Public Schools offers students many opportunities to gain college credit while still in high school.
Around 600 of the districtís students this year are taking advantage of dual enrollment programs and split days, where students attend high school half of the day and college courses the other half. That represents about 20 percent of the entire high school population.
Throughout their high school years, students are given a number of opportunities to not only gain course credit, but to also receive professional certifications, such as students who attend the Satellite Center in broadcasting or culinary arts or take mechanical drafting courses.
"They are very specific certifications. Itís impressive that students are leaving high school with them. Thatís beneficial not only for the work force, but also because they can put it on their resume for college," Boudreaux said.
She said students are given many opportunities to excel and for most students that begins with a state required career plan in eighth grade before they enter high school. By design all career plans require some sort of education beyond high school.
"Itís formally called a five-year plan," Boudreaux said. "Basically what it is trying to do is provide some guidance of four years of high school and the one year following high school graduation."
The plan includes a general career area that students are interested in and direction on what it will take as far as course selection to achieve their career goals.
"We encourage the students to take these courses along with the required academic courses," Boudreaux said.
When students enter high school in 9th grade, a career facilitator further helps keep them on a career path.
For some students that involves field work where they shadow professionals. For other students it means doing intensive research and providing an in-depth report on the career field.
"I think sometimes students take it very seriously," Boudreaux said. "Sometimes it is to the point where they find out that they donít want to be in the career. For instance, students who think they want to go into the medical field and donít realize they are going to have to look at blood."
Although the majority of students who graduate from St. Charles do end up with at least some sort of post-secondary education, it is undetermined how many of them actually finish a degree plan.
According to state standards, Allemand said the requirement of some education beyond high school does not mean students will necessarily need to pursue or complete a degree program.
"They are very careful on how they word that saying that they require some education after high school, which could be an apprenticeship program of a trade school program, not necessarily a two-year degree program per se," Allemand said.
According to Allemand, about 43 percent of students statewide who enter a four-year degree program in Louisiana graduate within six years and six percent earn an associateís degree in four years.
NCHEMS currently ranks the degree attainment of Louisianans, from high school diploma to post graduate, in the bottom ten states nationwide at all levels.
In order to keep St. Charles Parish Public Schools on track in placing students in post-secondary education, Allemand has convened a college and career readiness taskforce made up of high school teachers, counselors, administrators, students and one community representative.
Task force meetings are open to the public with the next meeting scheduled on Feb. 21 at the Professional Learning Center in Luling.