El Dorado school officials are making the case for a pilot program offering alternative high school diploma options. District officials presented their plan for individualized, trade-focused diploma options to a joint meeting of the Education Committees Monday.
El Dorado Superintendent Jim Tucker said an alternative to the GED – that keeps kids in school – is needed.
“I think our main focus right now would be to look at the students that are maybe getting ready to drop out of school, wanting to work on their GED and giving them this option so they can still get their diploma,” said Tucker.
Tucker asked the Education Committee to recommend the pilot diploma program to the Department of Education for the upcoming school year and is seeking a bill sponsor to look at its implementation on a larger scale in the next legislative session beginning in January. He argued the plan would decrease drop-out rates and re-direct a student's energy to learning skills for in-demand trades. Tucker said the El Dorado School District is working with community colleges and local industry to develop course options.
Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers expressed a desire to expand the possible program beyond struggling students to be offered as an equal alternative alongside the traditional diploma. State Senator Stephen Meeks (R-Greenbrier) was among them.
“We’ve put too much emphasis on four year college degrees. Not everyone is interested or designed to go to a four year school. What I’d like to see, and I think some of my colleagues like Senator Elliott (D-Little Rock) would like to see, is more of these Vo-Tech type careers for people who…students who are interested in more of a hands-on job…to take their gifts and to encourage them and to develop those gifts so that these folks can go out and fill these jobs where there’s a need,” said Meeks.
14 other states, including five neighboring states have “other” diploma options.
Gubernatorial candidates have not weighed in on this specific proposal but both Mike Ross (D) and Asa Hutchinson (R) have indicated their support for increased Vo-Tech styled education.