DEPARTMENT TO HOST CONVERSATIONS ON REVAMPING DIPLOMA

May 23, 2013

Discussions include proposal to strengthen, expand career education

BATON ROUGE, La. – The Department of Education today announced a round of summer discussions with parents, students, educators and community members regarding plans to simplify and improve the state’s high school diplomas. Plans under consideration include strengthening the Career Diploma, to provide more students a direct path to high-growth, high-wage careers. The Department plans to bring proposed changes in regulation to BESE in the fall of 2013. School systems and colleges would adjust course offerings no later than fall 2016.

Proposals for consideration will include simplifying the three diploma system to one Louisiana Diploma with two tracks: technical career preparation and four-year college preparation. The technical path would include junior and senior year education within high-growth, high-wage employment areas dependent on the student’s region. Technical colleges, local industry, and high schools would provide courses.

The career education discussions come after Senate Bill 202, sponsored by Senator Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa), passed through the legislature, aligning the college diploma track with TOPS course requirements.

“Graduating from high school in Louisiana is too complicated for parents, counselors, teachers, and students,” said State Superintendent John White. “More important, it makes no sense to graduate not prepared for a specific path after high school. We should have one simple diploma that connects directly with the workforce and the four-year colleges.”

Currently Louisiana students can earn one of three diplomas: Core Four, Basic, or Career. However, the diplomas often do not connect to life after high school. For example, even though the Core Four Diploma is intended to prepare students for a four-year degree, only 19 percent of Louisiana students graduate from college. The diploma further requires a different set of requirements from the TOPS curriculum, making it difficult for students to plan their academic path. The Basic Diploma neither meets the requirements for TOPS, nor prepares students for high-wage, high-growth careers. Finally, the Career Diploma includes 2,400 students, with only 171 expected graduates in 2013.  Among students receiving a career certificate, two thirds are pursuing credentials in basic computer and customer service skills, not the high-growth, high-wage industry areas in Louisiana.

“The business community is very excited about Superintendent White's visit to our area to talk about career path curriculums.  With a continual interest in workforce development and a critical need for skilled labor, this focus is timely and significant to all of us,” said Charlotte Bollinger, Executive Vice President of Bollinger Shipyards. “With 80 percent of the population not receiving an associate or baccalaureate degree, it is crucial that we engage students with a path to high school completion and a skill set that helps them support a family. Interestingly, this ratio mirrors the needs of most businesses.  This effort to focus on career curriculums could significantly lower drop out rates and help businesses grow.  Best of all it can change communities in immensely positive ways as people find their own happiness in doing work that they enjoy.”

“In spite of the progress we’ve seen through state and district efforts to increase high school graduation rates, we clearly have to do a better job of preparing students for success beyond high school.  This means ensuring that they have the skills to compete in a global marketplace of high-demand, high-wage jobs.  We must also provide viable post-secondary opportunities that will bridge the skills gap in our workforce,” said John Warner Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Education’s Next Horizon, a statewide non-profit organization that has studied this issue extensively. “We believe that it is equally important that we do a better job of educating students and parents about career and post-secondary opportunities that can lead to success. Examining the current diploma system to create a system that will accomplish these objectives is a necessary step.  We applaud Superintendent White’s collaborative approach of gathering input from all key stakeholders in addressing an issue so vitally crucial to the well-being of our children, our families, and our economy.”

This set of broad recommendations to the diploma will be discussed with stakeholders and developed into a more detailed plan throughout the summer and fall. Any changes to the current system would affect students who start high school in 2014, and regions would fully develop junior and senior coursework by 2016.

While the Department works with stakeholders to build out a long-term plan, there will be a short-term option. “Jump Start” will be an option for regions ready to build out high-wage, high-growth career pathways in partnership with a regional consortia industry leaders and higher education prior to 2016.  The Louisiana Department of Education will host a webinar on Thursday, June 20 at 2 p.m. to provide more information on this option. Further details on the webinar and the due date for Jump Start proposals will be available in the weekly district newsletter.

Superintendent White will begin a listening tour on June 10 at South Louisiana Community College and will continue to visit technical colleges around the state this summer to gather input and begin to develop a more detailed plan to provide Louisiana students with real opportunity after high school.  The Superintendent welcomes students, parents, industry leaders, and educators to join these conversations scheduled for:

  • June 10 – South Louisiana Community College at 2 p.m. in Lafayette
  • June 13 – SOWELA Technical Community College at 2:30 p.m. in Lake Charles
  • June 14 – Central Louisiana Technical Community College at 10 a.m. in Alexandria
  • June 20 – Baton Rouge Community College at 9 a.m. in Baton Rouge
  • June 20 – Bossier Parish Community College at 5 p.m. in Bossier
  • June 21 – Louisiana Delta Community College at 10 a.m. in Monroe
  • June 24 – Northshore Technical Community College at 11 a.m. in Bogalusa
  • June 24 – Delgado Community College at 2 p.m. in New Orleans

For further details, visit Louisianabelieves.com.  

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