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Louisiana's Bold Move to Overhaul High School Career and Technical Education


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Real Clear Policy

America’s high schools have problems. Nearly twenty years ago, Bill Gates observed that the existing model is obsolete — that, even when high schools “work,” the results are too often mediocre. In 2016, The Education Trust found that 47 percent of high schoolers graduated prepared for neither college nor a career. In 2018, Gallup reported that two-thirds of high schoolers described themselves as wholly or partially disengaged. And, just last month, the National Center for Education Statistics concluded that high schools are plagued by grade inflation: Over the past decade, grades have risen to a record high even as math and science performance by 12th graders has edged down.

In Louisiana, things are no better. Louisiana’s 84 percent high school graduation rate lags the national average. US News and World report ranks Louisiana’s high schools 42nd in the nation. That’s why Louisiana State Superintendent Cade Brumley has set out to reimagine how students graduate from high school. As he puts it, “Our high schools are antiquated in too many ways and operate in many places the same way they operated 50 years ago.” In response, the Louisiana Department of Education and Board of Regents last fall launched the state’s Fast Forward initiative.

In each of its eight Regional Labor Market Areas, the state provided a $50,000 grant to convene leaders from 4-year colleges and universities, community colleges, apprenticeship programs, school districts, and business to develop economically relevant graduation pathways for high school students. In each region, the goal was to identify apprenticeships and associate’s degree programs which students could complete on a “dual enrollment” basis while in 11th and 12th grade, and create a broad array of direct pipelines into the labor force.

The trick was to develop class sequences that mapped sufficiently onto Louisiana’s high school curriculum requirements to ensure that students would earn both workforce certifications and their high school diploma.:snip:

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