Louisiana Education Superintendent John White is making the rounds talking up the new Jump Start high school initiative and revamped career diploma for vocational-technical instruction. He says it’s time to “restore the dignity” of career education and to recognize 4-year college isn’t the only path to the middle class.
Here are some key points about the new policies. Further questions? Tell us in the comments section of this article, and we’ll try to get the answers.
1. Career diploma now more demanding; you must participate in Jump Start to earn one.
Almost no one graduated with Louisiana’s old career diploma – 1 percent, according to the Education Department. And students could, if they wanted, graduate with low-paying training in customer service and Microsoft Office. But employers in booming fields want to see graduates who are, for instance, certified as welders by the American Welding Society.
The new diploma requires 9 Jump Start units: a sequence of vocational classes and workplace experiences in a high-demand industry, that earns a recognized credential or certification. Students must also earn 4 units each of English and mathematics and 2 units each of science, social studies and health/physical education, including certain prescribed classes. There is no foreign language requirement. Instead of taking the ordinary ACT, they may take the ACT WorkKeys job-skills assessment.
The career diploma is open to all 2014-15 freshmen. Students in upper grades may choose to earn either the old career diploma or the new one.
2. Jump Start not the same as “dual enrollment.”
“Dual enrollment” means only that high school students take some college courses, for college credit. It could be any course — a foreign language not offered at the high school, for example – and it need not result in a certification or lead to a degree.
However, dual enrollment is one way students may fulfill their Jump Start requirements. In many cases, high schools are sending Jump Start students to local community colleges, such as Delgado’s welding certificate program.
Jump Start classes may also take place at the high school or in industry apprenticeship or training program.
3. Jump Start not available everywhere.
Schools need not “opt in” to the career diploma; it’s automatic. But that key Jump Start component is not yet available statewide. There are 11 Jump Start teams in 2014-15, covering about 50 of the state’s 70 public school systems. They include all of the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas.
- Gulf River Parishes team: Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James and St. John the Baptist Parish school systems.
- Greater New Orleans team: Orleans Parish School Board schools and New Orleans’ state-authorized charter schools.
- Capitol team: 11 Baton Rouge-area systems
- Northshore team: Includes St. Tammany Parish.
The Orleans Parish School Board and St. John the Baptist systems are participating in two teams each.
4. Authorized career areas are different in different parts of state.
The goal of Jump Start is to improve local communities by graduating students who can get good jobs in their hometown industries. Some parts of the state have a lot of oil-and-gas jobs; some have film jobs. For that reason, regional teams set the career areas for their local Jump Start participants. These teams are partnerships between K-12, higher education and business.
5. Students won’t be rigidly “tracked” into vo-tech.
Until this year, students had to decide upon entering high school whether to pursue the career diploma, and it was difficult to switch between tracks. Now students need not make the decision until the end of 10th grade, and they may switch after that. State officials and schools are discussing the need for more career counseling to help students make the right decision.
Graduates may also complete both sets of requirements. Several New Orleans students said in the winter they pictured themselves working in a trade while earning a 4-year degree.
6. High schools aren’t penalized for career graduates.
High schools are rewarded in the state letter grade system for successful career graduates just as they are for graduates with college-preparatory diplomas. The school earns more points for students who earn an advanced Jump Start credential, not just a basic one. An ACT WorkKeys score is treated the same as an ordinary ACT score.
7. There is some money for this.
Nine of the 11 Jump Start teams split $450,000 in state grants. A second, $845,000 round of grants is now open. Applications will be judged in October.
In addition, the state doubled the amount of extra money it gives high schools for resource-intensive classes such as welding. Some of the vocational-training programs are being offered through the state’s Supplemental Course Academy, formerly called Course Choice, and schools are given money for them as well.
8. Some New Orleans public high schools still offer vo-tech training.
Booker T. Washington’s cobbler program is a thing of the past (as is the school itself), but vocational-technical education continues at some schools. Landry-Walker High in Algiers offers cosmetology, nursing and welding and process technology. Joseph S. Clark Preparatory High in Treme has a new vo-tech program, NOLA Tech, that’s enrolling about 60 students this year, Clark officials said. The alternative school Crescent Leadership Academy is expanding its vocational options.
Lagniappe: The college-prep diploma changed as well.
Thanks to a 2013 law, the requirements to earn a college-preparatory high school diploma now line up exactly with what Louisiana colleges require for TOPS money. To earn a TOPS University Diploma, students must take four years each in English, math, science and social studies, including certain prescribed courses; two years in a foreign language and health and physical education; one year in the arts; and three electives.