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New High School Diplomas Won't Be Big Change For Students

High school students in North Carolina will soon have the option of pursuing a diploma with a vocational endorsement, or a college-ready one.  Governor Pat McCrory has made a big deal of this.  He called it important legislation to help prepare students to fill needed jobs.  It sounds like a big shift, but it likely won’t be that much of a change for students at least right away.    

WFAE’s Lisa Miller joins us now.

MCFADYEN: So, Lisa, just how different will these class requirements be?

MILLER: Well, first off, a lot of this is still vague.  McCrory signed the bill last week and the state board of education has a year to figure out the specifics.  But there probably won’t be a huge difference in classes.  Right now, the state requires all kids have 22 credits to graduate.  Many districts do have higher standards.  Those classes are spread throughout math, English, the sciences.  And if you want to have more of an emphasis on vocational training, then you use your electives to pursue that.  The new diplomas would keep all those requirements in place and possibly build off of them. 

MCFADYEN: So what’s the point of having these two separate diplomas if not much is likely to change with the actual classes you need to graduate?

MILLER: That’s what I asked June Atkinson.  She’s the state Superintendent of Public Instruction.  She said it’s basically to encourage kids to pursue a technical education.  Here she is:

ATKINSON: The notion of the endorsement really is recognizing that career-technical education is a way of getting a high-wage high-skilled job in North Carolina.

MILLER: Plus, the bill encourages the state to expand vocational classes.  It includes a provision that would make it easier for people in technical fields to become teachers.  And it’s interesting to note here, until recently high school kids could pursue a technical track.  But the state board of education raised graduation requirements and did away with that track because they felt all kids should be prepared for college after high school.    

MCFADYEN:  So under this new plan, could a student with a vocational endorsement on her diploma still get into a four-year college in North Carolina?

MILLER: Yes, provided that student takes a couple courses above the graduation requirement.  That’s how it is already.  You have to have two years of a language and a higher-level math.  But then at that point you might as well have a college-ready endorsement too. 

MCFADYEN: Thanks, Lisa.

MILLER: Thank you.