State Education Chief Wants to Remove Tech-School Stigma

State Superintendent of Education John White speaks Tuesday to the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce.
[Julia Arenstam/Staff — houmatoday/dailycomet]

State Education Chief Wants to Remove Tech-School Stigma

By Julia Arenstam Staff Writer-Houma Today | Daily Comet
Posted Oct 23, 2018 at 6:07 PM
Updated Oct 23, 2018 at 6:07 PM

A university degree is not the only rewarding path to success, Superintendent John White says.

Louisiana Education Superintendent John White says he’s working to revitalize the state’s
career and technical education program.

“There’s been a lot made about Louisiana’s rankings,” White told the Houma-Terrebonne
Chamber of Commerce during a luncheon meeting Tuesday at the Courtyard by Marriott.
“But there’s one living truth — Louisiana’s kids are just as smart, just as capable as all other
kids in this country.”

White began the Louisiana Believes program shortly after he was named to the post in 2012.
It’s an effort to ensure every student is on the way to college or a professional career. The
program is in addition to the state’s Jumpstart career and technical education initiatives.

To help students achieve, the state needs to focus on five things, he said:

  • Start learning early through Head Start and childcare programs.
  • Find the best curriculum and teacher support.
  • Train teachers in the classroom.
  • Support schools that have low-income students and low scores so they can improve.
  • Change the mindset on career technical programs.

About 80 percent of the state’s adult population does not hold a four-year college degree,
White said. But for so long, the mindset has been that college is the only path to success.

“We must dignify workplace-based education,” White said. The state has changed its school grading system to give equal scoring credit to career
technical education opportunities and academic opportunities. In the past seven years, participation in the workforce credential program has increased from 1 percent to 25 percent of Louisiana students.

“That could represent a watershed,” White said. But flaws remain, he said. Many students aren’t getting jobs and don’t have the underlying
personal skills they need to navigate the workforce. “They enter a world they are not yet ready and equipped to manage,” White said.

The state should focus on making career and technical education not just about learning but also about connectivity to a real job, he said.
“We’re leaving kids well-credentialed but poorly prepared,” White said. Credentialed students may not be selected for a job because they lack “soft skills” like workplace socialization and professionalism. These problems can be solved within the education system working with state lawmakers,
he said. “There’s decades more years of work left to come until education means prosperity in our
state,” White said.

Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or [email protected] Follow
her on Twitter at @JuliaArenstam.

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