RD122 - House Bill 1530 - High School Diploma Options and Stigma in Career and Technical Education – January 24, 2019

Executive Summary:

House Bill 1530 was enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia on March 29, 2018. This bill requires the Virginia Department of Education to make recommendations relating to (i) strategies for eliminating any stigma associated with high school career and technical education, and (ii) the consolidation of the standard and advanced studies diplomas into a single diploma. The Virginia Department of Education conducted an analysis of historical data and research, and convened a workgroup of stakeholders to discuss the bill.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs have encountered a stigma which dates back decades to a time when CTE was known as “vocational education" and was languished as a “track" for students who underperform academically. Although education policy has changed, the stigma remains. Recent national studies suggest that CTE programs face two challenges: outdated perceptions and low levels of awareness.

It is unclear as to whether moving from Virginia’s two diplomas to a single Virginia Diploma would eliminate the perception of stigma associated with career and technical education. In 2016, the Virginia Board of Education evaluated proposals for moving to one diploma, the Virginia Diploma, or maintaining the Standard and Advanced Studies Diplomas. In the February 24, 2016 Committee on School and Division Accountability meeting, it was reported that 43 states have one diploma, 7 states have two diplomas, and 1 state has three diplomas. The Board further discussed the issue during the May 25, 2016 Retreat Meeting (Decision Brief 2) and concluded that the proposal would need further development, consideration, and feedback; and, more efficacy data was requested.

Currently Virginia provides students with two diploma options, the Advanced Studies Diploma and the Standard Diploma. In 2018, Virginia revised the Standards of Accreditation and established the Profile of a Virginia Graduate, effective with 2018-2019 first time ninth graders, which focuses on providing multiple paths toward college, career, and citizenship readiness for students. Since 2013-2014, on average, 48 percent of Virginia CTE completers have graduated with an Advanced Studies Diploma. A CTE completer is a student that has completed two sequential electives in a career cluster pathway and graduated.

On December 12, 2018, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) convened a workgroup meeting to discuss HB1530. Participants included Delegate Davis; representatives from the Virginia Manufacturing Association, Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Career and Technical Association, State Council of Higher Education in Virginia, Virginia Association of School Superintendents, Virginia School Board Association, Virginia Community College System, school division Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Career and Technical Education Administrator, school counselor, teachers, and student. During the meeting, Delegate Davis expressed his desire to see this bill implemented and for Virginia to go to a single diploma option. Although there was much discussion regarding the single diploma option, no consensus was reached, recognizing the complexity of consolidating Virginia’s two diploma options into one Virginia diploma. Several strategies were discussed that could impact the public perceptions regarding career and technical education.

The workgroup recommended that the Commonwealth develop and execute a highly visible, statewide, promotional campaign to change public perceptions and raise awareness; create opportunities for K-12 education and business and industry partnerships to offer rich work-based learning experiences; provide competitive 21st Century skills innovation Career and Technical Education grants to inspire innovation; and, provide incentives for comprehensive high schools to offer innovative in-demand Career and Technical Education programs that align with regional sector pathways to meet local, state, and global workforce needs.