In February 2014, the Louisiana Department of Education posted a report about “Jump Start,” which restructures vocational school for students going into ninth grade. Under the terms of the new model, students can graduate high school with an industry certification. This program seems to be designed to address a gap in the current education system. According to the February 2014 report, “Jump Start: Expanding Opportunity for Louisiana Students,” only 28 percent of Louisiana high school students end up achieving a four-year or two-year college degree.” Of the remaining 72%, some do not finish high school, some finish but do not go to college at all, and some attend college only for a short time, ending up without a degree or other credential. Even so, there is a stigma associated with the current “Career Diploma” option in high school, which only 1% of Louisiana students choose.
The most immediate and significant policy changes for students seem to be the following:
First, at-risk students will have a “transitional ninth grade”; rather than having to choose between repeating eighth grade and going to high school for a Career Diploma, they will be placed into transitional ninth grade and will have the option of taking Jump Start classes as electives.
Second, “The Department of Education will support legislation to focus the required Individual Graduation Plan process on a one-year time horizon, rather than requiring a prediction of coursework from 8th grade through the senior year.” Whether the “Core Four Diploma,” the high school degree plan that is the most academically rigorous, will be available to these students is unclear, but the one-year-at-a-time projection suggests that they can change course if they perform well in transitional ninth grade.
Jump Start may also offer more options for students with disabilities that cause them to be, in the current system, “non-diploma-bound.” A working group will be tasked with looking into finding more possibilities for these students.
An appendix to the report suggests that Jump Start will make career training easier to integrate into a Core Four Diploma than it has been up to this point. Four hypothetical students are profiled, one of whom is “Russell,” who has a record of high academic achievement. He is pursuing a Core Four Diploma in high school but is participating in Jump Start because “Russell’s parents are determined that he study something practical so he can get a job – his big brother graduated college with a Humanities degree and found getting a job during the last recession almost impossible.”
For English Language Arts, the most significant change is that there will be ELA courses associated with Jump Start. These courses would be designed by regional Jump Start teams, but in Appendix 1 of the report, Career Diploma Graduation Requirements, the English requirements are the following: English III, English IV, AP or IB English courses, Business English, Technical Writing, or LCTCS equivalent English credits offered by Jump Start regional teams as approved by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.”