Ascension denies controversial ‘career diploma’

Michael Tortorich

Ascension Parish public schools are among several statewide districts to turn down Louisiana’s new “career” high school diploma.

The Ascension School Board, during a previous meeting, asked for permission to stay out of the program.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved the waiver for Ascension and 18 other districts requesting waivers.

Ascension has been allowed to opt out of the new diploma pathway, which was designed to reduce the state’s dropout rate by teaching a trade to high school students who do not plan to pursue higher education.

Districts which requested waivers for the new diploma program cited a need for more time to implement the plan.

School officials have also expressed concern about the quality of the program.

Some critics have said the new program will be a “dumping ground diploma” and have little impact on the dropout rate.

In neighboring Livingston Parish, school officials have said they needed more time to develop courses and communicate with parents and guardians.

Another neighboring parish, Iberville, began organizing a plan for students not headed to college before the state legislature approved the controversial program.

The Iberville district proposed a “Career Pathways” program for grades ninth through 12th to guide students and parents on career choices.

Iberville schools graduate just less than half of its students. The system’s goal is to cut dropout rates by 12 percent and raise graduation rates by 12 percent this year.

Iberville officials hope to gradate 80 percent of its students within three years.

About one in every three students fail to graduate on time in Louisiana. Nationally, about one in every four graduate on time.

Deidre Cruse of sister publication the Plaquemine Post South contributed to this report.