Louisiana established Jump Start, putting more emphasis on career and technical education, in 2014. Today, more than one in five high school students graduate with a “career” diploma, compared to less than 2 percent before Jump Start, and the number of industry credentials awarded has increased from 17,885 in 2014 to more than 90,000 in 2018, the state Department of Education says.
But John White, the state superintendent for K-12 education, says many people still see career-oriented education as less valuable than preparation for college.
“I still hear this phrase: ‘Well, that kid’s just a Jump Start kid,’” White said. “There remains a stigma that has been perpetrated by society upon the career and technical education system.”
At the 2020 Jump Start Convention in Baton Rouge Tuesday, White called for again restructuring how the system works, which he said would keep it on the “cutting edge” and help combat the stigma.
There are 51 unique Jump Start “pathways,” compared to 16 “career clusters” recognized at the federal level. White will ask the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to establish a “more cohesive set of pathways” that is easier for students, parents, educators and employers to understand.
Other goals of “Jump Start 2.0” include increasing access to workplace-based learning and creating new regional governance structures. The department says the original “Jump Start Regional Teams” no longer are functioning in all parts of the state.
And for the first time, panels that choose the state’s “student of the year” will include a career and technical education supervisor and consider industry-based credentials and awards, White said. Having a top Jump Start student named student of the year would help alleviate the stigma, he suggests.
Tim Johnson, executive director of the Louisiana Construction Education Foundation, announced a new scholarship meant to help Jump Start students improve their skills and transition to the workplace. He said he hoped 40 to 50 students per year would benefit.
White recently announced plans to leave the education department in March.