Louisiana’s White Calls for Overhaul of High School Diplomas

Louisiana’s Superintendent of Education John White believes that the state needs to reevaluate its system of granting high school diplomas in light of the fact that 80% of those who graduate high school in the state don’t pursue a four-year college degree. White pointed out that many families no longer look at a four-year degree as a requirement, and the high school curriculum in Louisiana needs to be adjusted to account for this new attitude.

According to Will Sentell of The Advocate, White also called on families to approach college education more critically. Specifically, he said that older generations need to drop the idea that the only route to success for their kids is through college.

White, who made his comments to the Press Club of Baton Rouge, said one of the key steps to boosting career education is for the state to drop its system of offering three different high school diplomas.

One of the three is a Career diploma that is supposed to prepare students for jobs or community or technical schools. White said that, of 175,000 high school students, about 2,000 pursued a Career diploma and about 170 graduated.

“The Career diploma has become a dropout diploma,” he said.

In addition to the Career diploma, the state also offers the Core 4 diploma which aims to prepare graduates for a four-year school, and a less rigorous Basic diploma for those who wish to enroll in a two-year college or a technical school. Sentell expects the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to offer proposals for the diploma system overhaul next month.

White called for the elimination of the Career diploma starting with this year’s 8th graders when he talked about changes to the Louisiana’s secondary education system earlier this year. He said that the current system best serves students on the traditional education track, meaning high school followed by a four-year college. The rest get shortchanged.

In addition, because the current system does not allow changes for students who initially select to pursue the Career pathway, they could be stuck with a decision they made when they were only 12 without an alternative.

On another topic, White said plans for the state to take part in national academic standards are unfolding as scheduled.
Gov. Bobby Jindal sparked attention on Friday when he said he was opposed to the federal government mandating curricula for local schools.

Jindal, who made his comments to the annual “Red State Gathering,” used language similar to some of the criticism employed by those who want Louisiana to shun the new academic guidelines, which are called common core.

But Jindal also said the issue is one for BESE, which endorsed the move in 2010.