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Legislature debates career-track courses

JACKSON — High school students who do not want to go to college would have an option to pursue career-track studies under a bill being considered in the Mississippi Legislature.

The House bill up for debate in the Senate outlines 20 course unit requirements for the so-called career track curriculum. Students who choose to go that route would still have to earn four units of English and at least three in math and three in science.

“We’re not trying to dummy-down the curriculum,” said House Education Committee Chairman Cecil Brown, D-Jackson. “The whole (educational) system is focused on trying to move kids in a path to get a four-year degree in college, but a number of kids don’t want to do that.”

Gov. Haley Barbour has said not all public school students should be encouraged to go to college if they’re not interested in pursuing a four-year degree. Some school districts already offer such curricula under the state Department of Education’s high school redesign program, which is still being expanded.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Videt Carmichael said he’s hoping the changes could reduce the state’s 16 percent dropout rate. He said students often drop out of school because they’re bored, and not necessarily because the coursework is too difficult.

The bill would allow local school boards, the state College Board and the state Board for Community and Junior Colleges to establish a dual enrollment system. The legislation allows a student to have a dual enrollment in a community or technical college or participate in an internship or work-study program. The student also must have at least four credits in career and technical education courses.

Eric Clark, executive director of the state Board of Community and Junior Colleges, said initially there were some concerns about the bill. But he said the House made a few changes, including inserting language to show his board and the state College Board could recommend admission requirements for dual enrollment programs.

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