Monday, July 13, 2009

Career Diplomas in Louisiana

Louisiana is poised to join New Hampshire in plans to allow earlier graduation - specifically after sophomore year at the age of sixteen - for students who are not interested in attending four year colleges. The Christian Science Monitor reports:

High-schoolers in Louisiana will soon be able to opt for a "career diploma" – taking some alternative courses instead of a full college-prep curriculum. The new path to graduation – expected to be signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) in the coming days – bucks a trend in which many states are cranking up academic requirements. The legislation puts the state in the center of a national debate about where to set the bar for high school graduation.

Advocates of the new diploma option say it will keep more struggling students in school and will prepare them for jobs, technical training, or community college. Critics doubt the curriculum will be strong enough to accomplish such goals and say it shortchanges students in the long run, given the projections that a large number of future jobs will require a college degree.

While there is much to discuss - and a wide margin for error - there is a lot of practical wisdom in this action. The most significant problems are students who might change their minds later - as well as the notion that sixteen-year-olds might not make the "best" or most mature decision. And, of course, there is a significant chance that this will be disproportionately pursued by - and even recommended to - mainly poor and minority students.

I'd like to see the option available while resources are directed toward making sure each student makes his/her own best decision, and all students are guaranteed equal access to opportunities in education.

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