'Jump Start' career-based program changes education for LA students

Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - 5:15am

A new initiative could be changing your child's education. It's called the Jump Start Program. It's a career-based curriculum taught by industry professionals. It's for Louisiana High schoolers who feel the university route is not for them.

"The question that we're asking is what then for a kid who doesn't have a four-year college degree?" said State Superintendent John White. "What opportunity are we giving them to participate in all this job growth that we have here in Louisiana?"

According to statistics presented at the meeting, more than 27% of students in the state don't graduate from high school in four years, and less than 20% get a 4-year college degree. Right now, if an 8th grader is struggling in their school work, they either have to stay behind or go to ninth grade as a career education. "There's no way that a 12-year old kid, 13-year old kid is going to know what they're going to be doing when they're 18 or 19. Let's let them make that decision later," said White.

Some people meet this new change with reservation.

"I am an agri-science instructor, and I also teach electricity, carpentry, and construction," said one teacher. Meet Paul Theriot, a teacher who works first hand with many students who might choose the career path-every day.

"All in all, I feel that it has the potential to be a good thing for our students, but as I said, the devil's in the details, and we have to be very careful to not have a detrimental effect on the good things that are already going on. we have to be very careful of the unintended consequences," said Theriot.

Those like career students not being eligible for four-year TOPS funds in case they want to enroll in a university later. People at that meeting also brought up concerns about paying for the program, training teachers to teach these new classes, and getting the community on board. "I'm curious to see the what the total, final implementation of the program will be," added Theriot.

But both sides agree, students' futures take top priority.

"Career option is not a lesser option or a greater option than a University pathway. It's a different path. They're going to have college credit, they're going to be getting credentials that allow them to work in today's Louisiana workforce," said White.

Theriot added, "All of our students, no matter what their post high school plans may be, all of our kids are career kids because hopefully we all get a job at some point in time."

Superintendent White says you'll start seeing schools on board as early as this fall. Schools will be required to start the program the 2016-17 school year.

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