State school chief urges single diploma
MORGAN CITY, La. — State Superintendent of Education John White said one high school diploma with two tracks to obtain it and work to end the stigma surrounding career diplomas are necessary.
White met Monday with educational and industry leaders to brief them on a proposal to revamp the Career Diploma option offered in Louisiana high schools.
Speaking at the St. Mary Industrial Group’s monthly meeting, White said there are three paths a student can take to receive a high school diploma — Core 4, the college track; Basic Core, a hybrid of the other two; and the Career Diploma, concentrating on career training and designed for students who could not pass the eighth grade LEAP test.
The differences between them are in the number of required core courses — English, math, social studies and science — as opposed to the number of electives in a career area of concentration.
White said the stigma attached to receiving a career diploma needs to be removed, while the diploma track needs to become a viable option for truly getting students ready for the regional workforce.
With only 19 percent of state high school graduates obtaining a four-year college degree, it is vital that all students obtain some type of post-secondary training so that they can go on to “take care of their families and lead prosperous lives,” White said.
Of the 175,000 high school graduates statewide in 2013, 2,000 were pursuing Career Diplomas, but only 171 actually graduated with the degree, White said.
“Kids pursuing our career track are suffering,” he said.
White added that many parents still hold a stigma against the career track, instead telling their children they must attend a four-year university. While not a bad option, he said, it is not always necessary in Louisiana’s economy that is geared toward industry and natural resources.
The state superintendent also noted that the oil field now is a “technical economy,” and not primarily manual labor-based like it used to be. Changing parents’ minds about this fact may be key to changing attitudes toward technical education, he indicated.
White proposed ending Louisiana’s “caste system of diplomas” by offering one diploma with two ways to earn it, either directed toward university or technical education but producing students equally able to “reason, write and read” White said.
Further, he said career tracks in the educational system need to be determined regionally, instead of from Baton Rouge, because each area of the state has different needs to fulfill.
Dictating the requirements from Baton Rouge “debilitates locals from developing what works locally,” he said.
He called on regional business and industry leaders to assist in that development.