Louisiana Rediscovers the Career Diploma
This is an article in the national publication, Real Clear Policy, touting Louisiana’s major push recently to provide Louisiana high school graduates with a variety of vocational/career certifications. The article is proclaiming this shift in the Louisiana graduation emphasis by State Superintendent Cade Brumley as a bold new initiative! Superintendent Brumley certainly deserves credit for finally beginning to provide thousands of Louisiana high school graduates with valuable career training, but this change in emphasis was mandated by a law passed in the Louisiana legislature almost over 13 years ago.
The article in Real Clear Policy calls this a "bold move" to overhaul career and technical education in Louisiana high schools. According to the story "the program will develop economically relevant graduation pathways for high school students." When I read the article, it reminded me that I had discussed this issue in my new book on parenting. Here is an excerpt from my book, Parenting According to Nature on the subject of career education:
“In 2009 I took these ideas to local school superintendents across the state, and with their support drafted legislation (SB 249) which was called The Career Diploma Law, and got it passed through the Louisiana legislature that year. The bill had almost unanimous support of both Representatives and Senators and was signed by the Governor. The Career Diploma law provided a vocational pathway for graduation to students who wanted to pursue a career that did not require preparation for four-year colleges.”
Here is a direct quote from the career diploma law passed 13 years ago in Louisiana:
“(b) Students pursuing a career major shall be afforded the opportunity to dually enroll in a community or technical college or participate in a business internship or work-study program,”
“The only problem for this legislation was that the state superintendent of education in Louisiana at that time, who had no credentials in education, had opposed the legislation providing for the career diploma, and basically refused to implement the law. That’s because he and members of the State Board of Education had been convinced to adopt a new education reform strategy that was the national rage at the time, particularly among non-educators, that aimed to prepare all students for college.
Philanthropist Bill Gates had been convinced to support and promote a new curriculum for all public-school students in the U.S. called the Common Core State Standards. The Common Core State Standards also came to be strongly supported by the Obama administration. The Louisiana State Board of Education adopted this new curriculum, even before it was written, at the urging of the Gates Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education. The actual set of standards was then hurriedly designed by a small group of mostly testing company executives and their experts. The goal of the project was to have all states “voluntarily” adopt the new Common Core State Standards. The leader of the effort was David Coleman, the president of the College Board, which produces the SAT tests and tests for advanced placement (AP) courses in high schools. Coleman had never spent one day as a classroom teacher in the K–12 education system. In fact, most of the writers of this new curriculum had little experience as classroom teachers and sought almost no input from professional educators in writing the standards. This was part of a new trend where non-educators apparently decided to take education reform into their own hands with little or no consultation from professional teachers. This new college prep curriculum flew in the face of recommendations from educators who saw a greater need for vocational and career education for most students who would not attend college.”
The article in Real Clear Policy gives Bill Gates credit for announcing 20 years ago that U.S. high schools were not doing a good job of preparing students for lifetime skills. Here is a quote from a Gates speech at that time: “America’s high schools are obsolete. By obsolete, I mean that our high schools – even when they’re working exactly as designed – cannot teach our kids what they need to know today.”
Ironically Gates, who had dropped out of college to develop a software company that made him one of the richest persons on earth, now spent over a billion dollars of his foundation’s money to force all American children to be taught a lot of stuff they would never use in real life. The Louisiana Career Diploma law however, had been passed specifically to allow our high schools to teach “kids what they need to know today”. The adoption of the Gates supported Common Core standards basically paralyzed all efforts to make our high schools more relevant to the 70% of our students who were not going to attend 4-year colleges.
So now, after an entire generation of Louisiana children have attended schools under the Common Core standards, our Board of Regents has projected that only 18% of today’s ninth graders can be expected to achieve any type of college degree. So, the program had made our college attendance rate even lower than before in Louisiana. Now, all these years after passage of the Career Diploma law in Louisiana, our Department of Education and even the business community have rediscovered this law and decided to implement it as a “bold move to overhaul high school career and technical education”. It sure would have been great if our education reformers had done this 13 years ago.