Louisiana: Jump Start

Louisiana’s Jump Start program was launched in 2014 to reboot and repair the state’s career diploma system, and deliberately aligns the state’s secondary Career Technical Education (CTE) strategy with its economic development work. The program centers around public-private partnerships — regional teams of K-12, postsecondary and industry representatives come together to create course pathways in demanded fields, which include related workplace experiences and are anchored in a regionally-identified and state-approved industry-recognized credential.

Since its inception, the state has approved (through a cross-agency review panel that includes the Louisiana Workforce Commission, Louisiana Economic Development and the Department of Education) 47 graduation pathways that span multiple fields, which culminates in a Career Diploma. Students who are pursuing a university-preparatory diploma are able to take Jump Start pathways as electives, meaning that students of all backgrounds and levels of academic achievement are encouraged to gain these valuable career skills.

Additionally, the state has redesigned its accountability system so that schools and students have the needed incentive to pursue this option. All state-approved industry-recognized credentials are categorized as “Advanced” or “Basic.” The majority of credentials are basic and the advanced credentials typically are only attainable after earning a basic credential.

Louisiana’s Graduation Index (worth 25 percent of a high school’s accountability rating) assigns more points for students graduating with an “Advanced” industry credential or a qualifying score on AP, IB or CLEP (150 points) than for those who graduate with a “Basic” credential  or earn college credit through AP, IB or dual enrollment (110 points) – and the most points for students who earn both an advanced credential and a qualifying score on AP, IB or CLEP (160 points). In this way, schools are rewarded for preparing their students for college and career, no matter which path the students choose, but also incentivized for their students to earn more advanced credentials.

Policy in Action
Louisiana developed a four-year implementation plan for Jump Start, which was implemented in the 2017-2018 school year. In 2014, the work on implementation began with the formation of the regional teams, who began to decide on the appropriate graduation pathways to implement. Once those pathways were chosen, districts were given two years to build their instructional capacity and ensure CTE instructors obtained the necessary credentials. Throughout implementation, the state provided guidance, resources and tools through its Louisiana Believes website, but the work at the regional and local level was driven forward by the cross-sector regional teams.

The number of industry-based credentials earned in Louisiana has tripled since the introduction of Jump Start, reaching 90,000 in the 2017-18 school year. However, fewer than 2 percent of credentials earned in 2017-18 were in four- or five-star industries, which are determined by the Louisiana Workforce Commission based on labor market projections. Louisiana found that the structure of the existing accountability system did not sufficiently reward high-value credentials. The difference in point values for basic and advanced Jump Start credentials was small enough that districts and schools tended to support learners in attaining basic credentials rather than investing in the facilities, equipment and time necessary for students to earn four- or five-star credentials.

In 2018 Louisiana proposed to restructure its accountability system to incentivize high-value industry-based credentials. Under the proposal the Department of Education submitted to the Louisiana Accountability Commission in December 2018, four- and five-star industry-based credentials would be weighted higher in the accountability system. The new accountability framework is one of the core pillars of Louisiana’s Jump Start 2.0 strategy, which will draw on lessons from the early years of Jump Start to iterate and improve the program’s design.

JumpStart 2.0 will also expand the state’s focus on additional university-aligned career pathways. Louisiana believes that all learners, not just those in CTE programs, should have access to a high-quality career pathway. As such, the state plans to develop and scale rigorous career pathways in fields such as pre-engineering; environmental restoration; and information technology/coding, which is now available to all Louisiana learners. In 2019 The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved 11 Jump Start 2.0 pathways, along with a waiver process for facilitating changes late in students’ progressions. As a condition of approving the pathways, the board commissioned a panel that includes CTE directors to bring back to BESE further adjustments to Jump Start 2.0, including further universal courses.

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Last updated: August 2021

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June 2016