Cohen is right, this IS a step backwards. This is similar to the concerns about This session's House Bill and Senate Bill 3 in Texas. Using tracking as a solution to curb dropout without addressing other school factors that contribute to student push-out (e.g., teacher and counselor shortage, teacher quality, test-driven curriclum, etc.) is poor policy.
June 19, 2009
BATON ROUGE - High school students could skip college prep courses and instead take classes designed to get them into two-year schools under a plan that Louisiana lawmakers are expected to approve despite criticism that it would produce graduates who can't find jobs.
awmakers are expected to send the bill to Gov. Bobby Jindal in the next few days, over the objections of some national education groups who say the changes would dilute the state's recent work to improve public schools.
They say the legislation lowers standards beginning in eighth grade and would produce graduates who struggle to find work because they never mastered basic reading, writing and mathematics.
"One way to raise achievement is to raise expectations, with a more rigorous curriculum, and Louisiana has done a good job of that recently," said Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, a nonprofit organization that works to raise states' academic standards. "But we're concerned that this legislation would be a step backward."
The governor's aides have said Jindal supports the bill.
Under the legislation, parents could allow their children 15 and older to leave pre-college curriculum and instead take the "career option program."
Graduates who took the new curriculum would get a career-option diploma that would not qualify them for a four-year college or university. Instead, they could attend two-year technical schools or community colleges.
Few legislators oppose the bill. They say the new curriculum would reduce the number who drop out and often turn to drugs and crime when they can't find jobs.
"As we push out and drop out these students, many of them end up on the streets, and many of them end up incarcerated," said state Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, one of two sponsors of the plan.
The other sponsor, state Sen. Robert Kostelka, R-Monroe, has said he supports it because in his former position as a state district judge he was often forced to send teenagers - high school dropouts - to prison.
Kostelka said the career program will keep those children in school, learning skills that will win them jobs after graduation.
Critics, including Superintendent of Schools Paul Pastorek, insist the curriculum change would have the opposite effect that Fannin and Kostelka envision.
Cohen and the presidents of two other national education groups last week sent a letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate education committees, urging them to oppose or rewrite the legislation.