‘Work Ethic’ diploma to be offered by county schools

Posted 9/14/17

Students at the Bradley Central and Walker Valley High schools will soon get to choose to work toward a new kind of high school diploma.

The Bradley County Board of Education on Tuesday voted …

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‘Work Ethic’ diploma to be offered by county schools


Students at the Bradley Central and Walker Valley High schools will soon get to choose to work toward a new kind of high school diploma.

The Bradley County Board of Education on Tuesday voted to allow school officials to begin offering the Tennessee Work Ethic Diploma.

This diploma program encourages students to complete extra goals on top of their academic requirements, in order to help prepare for their future careers.

“It will help students work on some of those ‘soft skills’ they need to be successful,” said Arlette Robinson, career and technical education director for Bradley County Schools. “These are skills employers are telling us they need from our students.” 

Robinson and Annie White, regional program coordinator for Tennessee Pathways to Prosperity, proposed the program to the school board, saying it will help satisfy the needs of students and employers alike.

White said she has spoken with employers throughout the region about their needs. While they sometimes have challenges finding highly skilled workers, recent graduates are often lacking some of the more simple skills.

“One manager told me ... what he needed the most was for them to stay drug-free and show up on time,” White said. “Really, they’re missing these work ethic skills, these employability skills.” 

In the 2015-16 school year, three Tennessee school districts — the ones in the Grainger, Hamblen and Hawkins counties — introduced the Tennessee Work Ethic Diploma as a possible solution. White said it was patterned after a similar program “which is very popular up North.” 

Students opting in to the program will receive a checklist of items that can earn them points toward the diploma. Points can be earned for things like achieving good school attendance, avoiding unexcused tardies, remaining drug-free, earning industry certifications, completing dual enrollment credits, maintaining at least a 2.0 GPA, participating in “industry awareness events” and more.

Once a student earns 20 points over the course of his or her high school career, he or she will be eligible to receive a special seal on his or her regular high school diploma. These students would be recognized as Tennessee Work Ethic Diploma graduates and may receive special recognition during their graduations.

White said this program has been “very successful” in the three counties which have adopted it, and Pathways to Prosperity organization hoped to see more do so. Because of its emphasis on workplace readiness, it has also gained the official endorsement of the Tennessee Manufacturers Association.

As further incentive for students to participate, several companies statewide are also participating in the program. White said graduates with these diplomas will be “guaranteed” interviews with companies ranging from GE to International Paper.

Robinson said the new program will be offered at no additional cost to the school district, as existing staff would handle its administration. The school board unanimously approved this new offering.

This new diploma option will be available for this next graduating class, the Class of 2018.

”We will be meeting with our seniors very soon, to make sure they can be part of this if they would like to,” said Robinson.



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