Mar 13, 2013
The world our children will inherit is fundamentally different from the one for which many of us were educated. Employers today can locate their companies anywhere in the world, and where they locate depends on where they will find a well-educated workforce. Our children’s competition when they become adults won’t so much be in the next parish; it will be on the next continent.

That says a lot about how we should educate our kids. Gone are the days we can offer students only standard academic fare.  Today’s education should spark an interest in each child and build on that unique interest. It should prepare kids for the basics, but it should also prepare them for their unique path in life.

Consider the situation today. Each Louisiana high school is required to offer one career education “major.” But what if your future is in nursing while the only career major offered in your school is pipefitting? Or what if you’re an honors student in 7th grade math, but your school is one of more than 100 in our state that don’t have a teacher prepared to teach algebra in 8th grade?

In a day and age of endless variety, we can’t accept these limitations on the growth of our children. If Louisiana is to compete in the 21st century, we have to get beyond the limits of the traditional schoolhouse and provide each student an education that meets with their vision of life beyond 12th grade.

This week the Louisiana Department of Education launched Course Choice, a first-of-its-kind initiative to provide every parent and every student unprecedented access to educational courses provided beyond the walls of the student’s school. In some cases, that will mean education on a college campus while still in high school. In other cases, it may mean an apprenticeship in the workplace. Some courses will be delivered online; others will be face-to-face, in person. In every case, the parent and the student get to choose what’s best for them.

In this first year, the list of course providers is impressive. It includes Louisiana higher education institutions like LSU, Southern University, Dillard University, and the University of Louisiana. It includes leading public and private enterprises in our state, like the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier, Acadian Ambulance in Lafayette, or Associated Building Contractors in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles, all providing career and technical education for college and high-wage careers. Our state’s technical colleges will offer courses, as will online educators, offering a wide range of options to meet the needs of students.

Ninety-four organizations applied for this privilege. In the end, 42 will offer courses, having made it through several rounds of vetting and having finally been approved by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). Each organization will submit regular updates to BESE as to students’ academic progress. Those who show the ability to make gains will continue to offer these opportunities in future years; those who cannot increase achievement will no longer participate.

John White
State Superintendent of Education