College & Workforce Readiness

Louisiana Advances Career-Pathway Bill

By Catherine Gewertz — June 11, 2009 1 min read

The Louisiana legislature is wandering down an interesting path in reshaping its high schools. This week, its House Education Committee unanimously approved a bill that would let 15-year-olds diverge from the standard academic curriculum and concentrate their studies in trade skills such as auto repair, receiving a “career option” diploma that is different than the state’s standard diploma.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Robert Kostelka, argues that this approach would help cut the state’s dropout rate by carving a more suitable pathway for many students. But he and state schools chief Paul Pastorek have butted heads on this approach. The blunt-spoken Pastorek has said the proposal would put “dummy diplomas” in the hands of too many teenagers.

Kostelka’s bill, SB259, which cleared the Senate unanimously on May 13, is scheduled for floor debate in the House next week. I’m afraid I can’t link you directly to texts of his bill, and to its companion measure in the House, HB612. But you can look them up here.

And while you’re at it, leave a few thoughts here on my blog about all this.

For my money, what Louisiana is sorting out plows right into the heart of the growing debate about what we should want and expect from our high school students. Do we want them all to go to college, or at least be prepared for college?

And what should we make of those who argue for another, more career-oriented option for teenagers? It seems to me that the advocates of this view are enduring some real slings and arrows in these debates. Does their argument amount to old-fashioned tracking in drag, in which “those kids” are encouraged to pursue trades, and “these kids” are urged on to college? Or is it a key voice of sanity amid a rising “college-for-all” push that could be misplaced for some kids?

Come on, I know you have views on this. Weigh in here.

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School Connections blog.