Florida to have 2 types of high school diplomas under new law

Florida public high school students, get used to it: The way you get your diploma, and what your diploma says about you, is about to change.

Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Monday with vocational students in mind.

“And we should all be proud of how this will help Florida children get jobs when they finish their education,” the governor said at a signing ceremony in Tallahassee.

Under the new law, students will still strive for a diploma. But there will be two types: one stamped scholar, for kids pursuing a four-year college education, and one stamped professional, for those who are on a vocational path.

“We did not sacrifice rigor, we did not sacrifice relevance, we are providing for both college and career readiness,” said Miami-Dade Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho, who lobbied for the bill.

The principal at Westland Hialeah Senior High School, Guillermo Munoz, also supports the change.

“I don’t believe that we’re lowering expectations in any way,” Munoz said. “I think we’re always gonna set high expectations for our students and always make them aware that the more degrees of education they have, the more options they’ll have before them.”

Starting next year, students who opt for the vocational path will be able to graduate without taking algebra II and chemistry. They’ll take courses in fields that interest them, everything from auto mechanics to information technology and nursing.

“One of the things we’ve done in this country over the past decades is demonize the value of career technical education,” Carvalho said. “A career technical education that leads to employment is equally valuable to academic pursuits.”

Education experts say the two-tiered diploma system might have another benefit as well: keeping kids who are at risk from dropping out of school.

“Those students who may be at risk sometimes find themselves at risk because they feel that what we have to offer and what we’ve had to offer for all this time may not be what fits them best, and I do feel that having more options is gonna help those students particularly,” Munoz said.

The basic idea, Munoz said, is to provide a pathway for a meaningful diploma for students who might not be able to obtain a traditional one.

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