BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana's three-tier high school diploma system needs to be reworked to focus on career education and concrete outcomes, Superintendent of Education John White said Thursday.
The diploma should signal that students are either "credentialed" to work in a specific industry or fully prepared to earn a college degree.
"When you graduate, are you credentialed for a job? Are you prepared for college?" White asked. "Because if it's not one of those two, then we're not doing our jobs."
White is holding meetings around the state to discuss his diploma redesign plans and to get feedback on the proposal to create one diploma with a technical career preparation track and another with a four-year college preparation track.
He outlined his plans Thursday to an audience at Baton Rouge Community College that included educators and business leaders.
White intends to submit his proposed revisions to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in the fall, with new diplomas to be issued by 2016.
"The question is how best to reshape our diplomas over the long term to ensure that we're supporting the true system that puts our kids on the path to the American middle class," White said.
Only 19 percent of Louisiana's students who have concentrated on a college preparation track in high school earn four-year degrees, he said. Of the state's 175,000 high school students, 2,400 — or 2 percent — pursue the career diploma aimed at making them job-ready after high school.
"When we're only graduating 19 percent on a four-year college path and we only, at the same time, have 2,400 that are pursuing a career path, that to me signals that we have a lot of kids who are earning a diploma that isn't necessarily guaranteeing them a concrete next step," White said.
On Thursday White concentrated on the technical diploma in which schools would partner with technical colleges, local businesses and industries to provide students a path to "high-growth, high-wage" employment based on regional needs.
The diploma would require students to take two years of core academics as a freshman and sophomore, with the last two years of high school spent concentrating on a specific technical career area. Earning a high school career diploma would be contingent on students being credentialed in a career field in that student's region.
It would be up to the local educators and business community to determine what it takes to earn the credentials, White said.
White said the diploma transformation would be a three-year process and that it would start with academic regulations changes this fall and with pilot programs.