When the class of 2019 marches next month for the Monroe City Schools, there will be 133 graduates who will receive the Tops Tech diploma.
The Top Tech Career path is a special graduation path for students who have opted not to take college preparatory classes, but workplace oriented studies instead.
Top Tech diplomas are not accepted by any four-year colleges. Recipients must complete a two-year curriculum at a Jr. College before entering a four-year college.
Top Tech Diploma recipients pass a “Work Keys” test instead of striving for high ACT scores. A gold or platinum work key rating means that a recipient would be acceptable to major industries in Louisiana as employable, but work key scores are not accepted by four-year universities.
High Schools that promote the Tops Tech diplomas received bonus points for student participation in the Tops Career Path. In the last two years both Wossman and Carroll High School had bumps in the overall school letter grades after they both received an “A” for Career Diploma participation results even though Wossman had a “D” on its student Assessments and Carroll had an “F”. The high career diploma grade raised the overall letter grade of Wossman to a “B” and Carroll to a “C” although student assessment scores were unchanged.
While the Tops Career Path is approved by the state, it is not required for school districts. Nearly half the school districts in the state do not participate in the Career Diploma path.
Any special needs students who receive the diplomas are allowed to graduate, but state law designates that the diplomas they received do not meet federal requirements for a high school diploma.
According to Bulletin 741, which is state school law the Tops Career Pathway for special needs students is described this way, “This diploma pathway does not meet the federal definition of a standard high school diploma and students who receive the career diploma based on the pathway in this Section will remain eligible for special education and related services until the end of the school year in which they turn 22.”
In the class of 2019, Wossman High will issue 51 Tops Tech diplomas (39%). There will be 129 graduates in the 2019 class. Next year, Wossman projects it will have 63 Tops Tech graduates (44%). There will be 141 in the 2020 class.
Carroll High will have 25 Top Tech Diplomas (26%). Next year Carroll projects it will have 20 career diplomas (21%). There will be 119 graduates in the class of 2020.
Neville High will have 57 Top Tech Diplomas (24%). Next year, Neville projects it will have 40 Tops Tech graduates (19%). There will be 206 graduates in the class of 2020.
Superintendent Brent Vidrine says the Tops Career Path allows students who do not wish to attend college a path to graduation that focuses on career readiness rather than college readiness. Vidrine says the Top Tech program does not prohibit students from attending college because they can attend a Jr. College.