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Diploma changes could be coming

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Bossier Parish graduates could see a change to the high school diploma offerings in the future.

Louisiana students can currently earn one of three diplomas: Core Four, Basic, or Career. However, state officials say the diplomas don’t often connect with life after high school.

State Superintendent John White met with school administrators and teachers Wednesday to not only discussed the effectiveness of the new Common Core state standards, but gave a brief look ahead as to where the traditional high school diploma is headed.

“This is a learning time for all of us. We don’t know where most of these kids are going after receiving a high school diploma,” White said. “We need to take some of the pressure off of our teachers and address the unknowns in our school systems.”

According to the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE), 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.

“Basic English and math skills are important, but we need to acknowledge that there are still other option out there for these children,” White said. “If we don’t allow them access to these career opportunities then shame on us.”

Plans for strengthening the Career Diploma include providing more students with the opportunity of taking a direct path to high-growth and high-wage careers. The DOE planned to bring proposed changes in regulation to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) this fall, putting responsibility on the school systems and colleges to adjust course offerings no later than the fall of 2016.

White
White

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.

This set of recommendations continues to be discussed and developed into a more detailed plan. The DOE says that 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.

“We need to get them into the workforce and supporting themselves and their families, not relying on their family to support them,” White added.

White also took the time to personally applaud the Bossier School System for its top 10 finish in the state in school performance scores. Fourteen Bossier Parish Schools increased one or more letter grades, seven were named Top Gains Schools, and had no failing schools.

As a district, Bossier Schools maintained its ‘B’ letter grade and moved up from 16th on the state’s new grading scale to 10th.