Vidrine’s plan to expand career diplomas, not a good idea

Superintendent Brent Vidrine has plans to expand the “Career Diploma” into the Carroll Medical Magnet program. It’s not a good idea.
Recently Vidrine let it be known that he hoped to expand the infamous career diploma program into Carroll’s Medical Magnet program. Magnet leaders won’t say it to his face, but they oppose the idea.

The state offers two types of diplomas: one is called “Tops University path” which prepares students for college AND a career. The other is called “Tops Tech Career Path.” This diploma allows students to opt out of college prep and focus on vocational training for entry-level manual labor jobs.

What is the difference between the two? The university path prepares students to leave high school and go directly to college. In fact, many students on this path graduate from high school having already completed their first two years of college, while in high school.

The Career path, on the other hand, does not include college prep coursework. It is geared toward getting an entry-level job, such as welding, or an assistant lab technician, etc. However, a student who changes his mind just before graduation and wants to go to college is locked into the career path; a four-year college is not an option.

That’s why those who hear Dr. Vidrine’s idea about expanding the program to include the Carroll Medical Magnet Program are smiling in his face, but complaining behind his back; they know the impact it will have on students in the long run.

Why would the Superintendent want to expand the “Career Diploma” program? What does the school district have to gain?

The answer is very simple, a school gets a higher school performance grade if it pushes more students in the career path and for the superintendent it can appear to have really increased the learning of the entire student body of the school.

Here’s how it works. A school gets 25 index points for a student who graduates with Hiset (GED); It gets 40 points if a student graduates with a GED and some Jump Start Credentials.

If a student gets a career diploma with credentials the school gets 100 extra points.

The school gets 115 points extra if the student gets the career diploma and passes the work keys test that goes along with the diploma.

The school will get 150 points extra if it can somehow get its smart students to enroll in the program and score high on the Jump Start AP tests.

When it happens you will see high schools jump from failing schools to B and C schools almost overnight, leaving everyone to wonder “How did they do it?”

That’s why a high school can make that big jump and not an elementary school; the extra points for the “Career Diploma” are for high schools.

What makes it worse, is the state has dropped the program down to the 8th grade. According to the “Louisiana Believes” website 8th grade guidance counselors are being told to identify students for the “Career Diploma” and suggest the career path to them as they develop what the state is calling a IGP (Individual graduation plan).

Through power of suggestion a student is told that the career diploma is their best option at the 8th grade. The student enters high school and the career path in the 10th grade.

The student graduates with a diploma that does not meet federal guidelines for a high school diploma or even meet the state’s definition of a diploma. The student feels good, may get an entry level job, and is stuck on a course the district picked for him unless life jolts him otherwise.

Years later the student will learn how the system cheated him.

Hopefully, the new school board will correct this problem and pass policies that will seek high letter grades the old fashioned way, teaching students rather than seeking “bonus points” through pushing students to academically worthless high school diplomas.