LOUISIANA PREVIEWS NEW CAREER & COLLEGE READINESS PATHWAYS DURING JOINT BESE, BOARD OF REGENTS MEETING
Fast Forward now offers high school students 36 associate degree and three apprenticeship pathways
BATON ROUGE, La. – Seeking to build on increased participation in dual enrollment courses among high school students despite the pandemic’s academic disruptions, the Board of Regents extended its current minimum standards for dual enrollment student eligibility, retaining as optional both ACT scores and counselor recommendations. Dual enrollment is defined as the enrollment of a high school student in a postsecondary course for which both postsecondary and high school credit may be earned.
Today’s action keeps the current eligibility requirements outlined below through Academic Year 2022-23:
The Louisiana Department of Education’s new Fast Forward initiative is now all systems go. The initiative’s first pathways were previewed during today’s joint meeting of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and the Board of Regents. Following that meeting, BESE approved the pathways during the meeting of their full board. Louisiana school systems can now choose from nearly 40 new pathways that create opportunities for students to earn an associate degree or gain meaningful work experience through a high-demand apprenticeship all while still in high school.
“Fast Forward allows us to rethink the high school experience and help students graduate prepared for their next season of life,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley. “We were truly impressed by the pathways submitted by school systems across the state. The entry point of work has shifted, and this type of innovation is what’s needed for our students.”
BESE approved all 36 associate degree pathways and three apprenticeship pathways recommended by LDOE. Prior to recommendation, the pathways underwent a review from BESE, Regents, Louisiana Workforce Commission, Louisiana Economic Development as well as CTE supervisors from large and small school systems. These pathways now serve as frameworks school systems can use to offer apprenticeship or associate degree programs to high school students. Pathway examples include associate degrees concentrated in nursing and cloud computing and a state-sponsored apprenticeship in electrical.
“The Fast Forward initiative raises the bar in Louisiana for expanding career and postsecondary education opportunities for our high school students,” said BESE President Sandy Holloway. “The new pathways approved today will enrich the educational experience for more of our students and engage them to develop skill sets that match industry demand. We are excited about what this means for the future of our graduates and our state, and we value the ongoing, productive partnership between Louisiana’s education and business sectors that has made it possible.”
A lead school system from each of Louisiana’s eight Regional Labor Market Areas developed pathways for their region. System leaders studied regional workforce needs and collaborated with local higher education partners and business and industry professionals to design offerings tailored to the local community. All school systems had the opportunity to participate in their region’s planning process. In March, LDOE and Regents awarded eight school systems with $50,000 Fast Forward regional planning grants. LDOE and Regents split the cost of the grants. The funds were utilized to create the pathways.
“Approval of Fast Forward pathways for high school students by BESE is education transformation in action,” said Board of Regents Chair Blake David. “Better aligning students’ aptitudes and interests to the world of work today equips them for collegiate and economic success well into the future. Paired with today’s release of the first statewide dual enrollment report, BESE and Regents are charting an aggressive course towards achieving universal access, eliminating persistent equity gaps, and strengthening our college to career pathways. We are all excited about this work.”
Career and college readiness was the major focus of the BESE/Regents joint meeting. The first annual Dual Enrollment Report was also released. It features data from the 2018-19 school year, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a goal of better understanding participation trends and identifying equity gaps. The report integrates K-12 and higher education data systems to provide both a snapshot in time of the dual enrollment courses provided by public colleges and universities as well as the number of courses taken by high school graduates over the span of their high school careers.
By-the-numbers highlights from the report include:
- 32% of public high school graduates completed at least one dual enrollment course;
- 90% of general education courses taken by students were highly transferable; and
- 5 exemplary schools with 100% dual enrollment participation by high school graduates were identified
- 9 schools with 100% of minority graduates completing at least one dual enrollment course were also highlighted.
“Despite these accomplishments, the opportunity to begin college in high school through dual enrollment remains out of reach for far too many students,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed. “To be successful in developing talent we must identify and remove barriers that block the potential of our most vulnerable students. The Fast Forward pathways adopted today combined with the on-going dual enrollment work highlighted in the annual report, represent the kind of innovation that has the power to expand opportunities and accelerate talent development.”
Fast Forward was developed to blur the lines between high school, higher education, and the workforce as part of a redesigned high school experience. The initiative creates opportunities for students to earn an associate degree or gain meaningful work experience through a high-demand apprenticeship program. Students on this pathway would spend grades 9 and 10 on their high school campus earning required diploma coursework in core academic areas. Students would then have the opportunity to spend grades 11 and 12 on a postsecondary campus, a high school postsecondary satellite campus or fully immersed in a state-recognized pre-apprentice or apprentice program.
The initiative offers up to three pathways to students aside from traditional high school options. The Jump Start 2.0 Associate Degree Pathway allows students who plan to enter the workforce after high school to graduate with an associate’s degree. The TOPS University Associate Degree Pathway allows college-going students to earn two years of college credit while in high school. The High-Demand Apprenticeship Pathway allows students to enter the workforce after high school with certification in a high-demand field.
Details of the initiative were first shared at the December joint meeting of BESE and Regents. The initiative received support from both boards. Enhancing pathway opportunities to improve career and college readiness is a shared goal of the Board of Regents, BESE, the Dual Enrollment Task Force, and the Louisiana legislature and has garnered national attention. In 2019, Louisiana’s K-12 and postsecondary education policy boards set a goal for all high school freshmen, beginning with the entering class of 2025, to graduate with some college credit, a market-relevant credential, or both.
Associate degree opportunities for high school students have been underutilized in Louisiana. While the number of school systems offering an associate degree program in high school has increased, the number of students taking advantage of this opportunity remains small. Graduation cohort data from 2019 shows that only 159 out of 42,650 graduates earned both a high school diploma and an associate degree upon graduation from high school. State-registered apprenticeship opportunities have also been underutilized. Less than 10 students participated in 2019.