“Extension Academy” Pilot Programs in Louisiana High Schools

An alternative graduation model, called the “Extension Academy”, will allow specific students to participate in a fifth year of high school so they can earn career skills and gain credits toward a degree as well as increase their chances of being successful after graduation. Louisiana Believes states the priority deadline for school year 2020-2021 is November 20.

In 2018, around 15,000 Louisiana students who graduated on a TOPS University Diploma pathway weren’t eligible for a TOPS scholarship for higher education, and about 3,200 students who graduated with a Jump Start TOPS Tech Career Diploma weren’t eligible for TOPS Tech scholarships to pursue further training and weren’t on track to earn industry-based credentials. The Extension Academy pilot programs are tailored to support students who are set to graduate from high school, but haven’t earned the Taylor Opportunity for Students (TOPS) scholarships in order to fund their post-graduation education or acquire post-secondary credentials.

Over the course of a three year pilot, Louisiana schools that are interested in bringing this pathway to their students must outline how they plan to provide these students a debt-free one-year opportunity to “achieve significant progress toward a state-recognized associate’s degree through accelerated dual enrollment college experiences, complete a registered pre-apprenticeship, and/or earn an advanced industry-based credential.” Included in their pitch, they are required to detail the different types of support and post-secondary transitional coaching they will have available to the participating students as they complete the pathway.

About the opportunity, superintendent John White says, “”The question we used to ask ourselves was how high we could raise our graduation rate and how low we could push our dropout rate. Now we are compelled to ask what happens to our graduates, and whether they risk dropping out of work and the economy even after they graduate from high school. If this is the case, even with a small number of students, we must rise to meet this new dropout challenge. We encourage our school systems, as well as our higher education, business and community partners, to develop small-scale models for study and potential replication in the future, and to consider the potential impact their involvement could have on young people at a critical point in their lives.”

After the application deadline, the selected pilot locations will be presented to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for their approval during the joint meeting with the Louisiana Board of Regents this upcoming winter.

The approved Extension Academy plan will bring together 29 different area schools and other local partners to provide students with hands-on opportunities in an effort to build better workplace skills, training in construction crafts, graphic design skills, and increase familiarity with video editing and software development. The accredited higher education partner, which will provide accelerated dual enrollment college experiences, will be Southern New Hampshire University.

Today, there are 18 students participating in the pathway, and each student has a uniquely individualized plan for this 3 year experience.

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