Content tagged “Education”

Auditor releases nonpartisan brief on Common Core

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera's office this morning released a nonpartisan overview about the English and math standards used in Louisiana's public school classrooms. The 30-page report describes development of the standards, gives a sample of the changed teaching and outlines other states' use of Common Core. The report also provides an overview of the Common Core lawsuits filed in Louisiana. More than 40 states, including Louisiana, have adopted Common Core, which describes what students should know after completing each grade. Gov. Bobby Jindal opposes the standards, saying the Obama administration has manipulated use of Common Core to try to control local education policy and curriculum. Jindal issued a press release following the release of Purpera's report today, saying the report shows that Common Core standards are driving curriculum in the classroom. "We appreciate the Legislative Auditor's report as it confirms what parents, educators, legislators and the governor have...

Alexander: Transparency, outcomes measurements key to future of higher education

LSU President F. King Alexander is one of six national higher education leaders tapped by U.S. News and World Report to pen an op-ed about the industry's future. In his op-ed, Alexander focuses on the need for colleges and universities to increase transparency and commit to better measuring outcomes. "The future of higher education depends on transparency and a commitment to measuring outcomes and value," Alexander writes. "As higher education leaders, we need to use data to demonstrate both the economic and social benefits of higher education." Alexander, who has long been among higher education leaders who back President Barack Obama's proposed scorecard for U.S. colleges and universities, says not all institutions produce comparable outcomes. "Colleges and universities now operate in an overcrowded academic marketplace that provides students and parents virtually no...

Social media lessons from Mike the Tiger

You probably don't know Ginger Guttner, but if you follow any of the official social media profiles of Mike VI, LSU's live mascot, then you've seen her work. And that's the way Guttner likes it: She wants you to interact with Mike online and forget that she's the human being behind the tiger's tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram pictures. "People really get into the fact that they think they're talking directly to Mike, and I don't want to interfere with that," says Guttner, who shared with the Baton Rouge Social Media Association this afternoon the evolution of Mike's online presence since LSU first made an official Facebook page for him in 2010. "People want Mike, not the administrator." While that may seem obvious, Guttner says it wasn't back in 2010, when she "fell into the gig" of handling MIke's online presence as director of public relations for the LSU Veterinary School of Medicine. Today, Guttner cringes while recalling her first Facebook post on Mike's official page: a dry...

LSU enrollment in BR eclipses 30,000 for first time since 2005

Aided by the third-largest freshman class since admission standards were implemented in 1988, this year's enrollment at the LSU flagship campus in Baton Rouge has surpassed 30,000 for the first time since 2005, the university announced this morning. This year's freshman class, at 5,655 students, helped push total enrollment in Baton Rouge to 30,451, which is a 2% increase over last year's enrollment figures. Freshman enrollment reached an all-time high of 5,725 in 2012. Across all LSU campuses statewide, enrollment this year increased 2.4% from last year to 44,246. The LSU at Alexandria campus saw its enrollment jump by 21%, which is the largest year-over-year increase since 1987. "More students are choosing to pursue their higher education opportunities at LSU," says LSU President F. King Alexander in a prepared statement. "Whether a student is in Shreveport, Alexandria, Eunice, Baton Rouge or New Orleans, they can be assured that they will be given the tools and resources to be...

National education assessment says La. lagging rest of US

Louisiana hasn't made much progress in the past seven years in a national assessment of educational achievement. As Gannett Louisiana reports, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in its recently released "Leaders and Laggards" report, ranks Louisiana as the second-worst laggard—placing it at the bottom of all 50 states but ahead of the District of Columbia. Louisiana has grades of F in 5 of 11 categories. "Student performance in Louisiana is very weak; the state ranks among the lowest in the nation," the report says. The most damning are Fs in academic achievement and academic achievement for low-income and minority students in its 2014 report. The state received a D for its efforts to improve overall academic achievement in 2007 and a B for its efforts to improve academic achievement for low-income and minority students. The academic scores are based on the National Assessment of Education Progress, a standardized exam administered across the nation on which Louisiana students...

St. Joseph's Academy Arts Center

Owner St. Joseph's Academy
Architect Post Architects
Contractor Cangelosi Ward
Cost $7.2 million
Year completed July 2012
Use The 29,000-square-foot facility houses the all-girls private school's visual and performing arts curriculum. The new two-story building includes a functioning black box theater complete with back-of-house spaces and control booth, a dance studio with changing rooms and equipment/costume closets, a chorus room with a music library and practice rooms, two fine arts classrooms, and an art room with sinks, kilns, and custom cabinetry.

Negative perceptions

If the much-hyped industrial construction boom materializes over the next three years as anticipated, Louisiana will have some 80,000 jobs it needs to fill with trained workers.

With tech taking over in schools, bills arise across US to curtail data collection

This year alone, Louisiana was among 36 states that introduced new legislation on student information privacy and security, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan research group. And as The New York Times reports, the state's bill—which prohibits public school employees from collecting information about students' political or religious beliefs, family income, relationships with ministers or doctors, and gun ownership, as well as protects students or prospective students from having to give school officials access to their personal social media accounts or email addresses—was among about 30 bills passed nationwide. The bills are emerging as technology companies are collecting a vast amount of data about students, touching every corner of their educational lives—with few controls on how those details are used. Now California is poised to become the first state to comprehensively restrict how such information is exploited by the...

Officials lay out proposal to improve, unify La. early childhood education system

The Louisiana Department of Education and the Department of Children and Family Services this morning released proposed policies and strategies to complete the unification of the state's early childhood system by the deadline required by 2012 legislation, which is next fall. Due to inconsistent standards for learning and development among students below the age of 5, the departments say just slightly more than half of the state's children enter kindergarten equipped with basic literacy skills such as letter recognition. To address shortfalls, the departments say they plan to focus on teachers and outcomes, as well as streamline the enrollment process and expand statewide an early childhood pilot program. Currently, the departments say early childhood educators—identified as “the most critical factor in achieving high-quality outcomes for children”—do not have equitable access to training, tools, feedback and coaching. The plan calls for unifying expectations...

LSU supervisors approve contract extensions for Alleva, Caldwell

A proposed three-year contract extension for LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva has been approved by the LSU Board of Supervisors. The Associated Press reports the board approved the extension without discussion at its monthly meeting today. The extension comes without a raise for Alleva, who has been LSU's athletic director since 2008, but it will keep him under contract through 2019. Alleva makes $725,000 a year with incentives that can increase it to $900,000. The board also approved three-year extensions for women's basketball coach Nikki Caldwell and softball coach Beth Torino, plus a $35,000 raise for Torino. She will now make $145,000 per year. Alleva was hired after spending 30 years at Duke, the last 10 as athletic director.

Alexander creating new position to oversee fundraising of LSU foundation, alumni association and TAF

LSU President F. King Alexander is creating a new position in his administration—a vice president for institutional advancement, who will also serve as CEO of the LSU Foundation and oversee all fundraising efforts at the university, including those of the foundation, LSU Alumni Association and Tiger Athletic Foundation. Alexander says the move has been in the works for several months, and is based on the need to better coordinate fundraising among the three private, nonprofit organizations, which he says have not worked together closely enough over the years to produce results. "There is no reason in the world why Michigan State should have a $2 billion endowment and Indiana and Wisconsin, too, when our graduates are doing better than theirs and we have an endowment of less than $400 million," Alexander tells Daily Report. "We need to set our sights higher … We're just 20 years behind in what we've done with our foundations and fundraising." Alexander's actions...

Jindal: More states will move away from Common Core

In an hour-long webinar produced this week by conservative Christian research group the Family Research Council, Gov. Bobby Jindal predicts more states will reverse course on Common Core, as Jindal wants Louisiana to do. "You look at the Carolinas. You see more and more states moving away from Common Core," says Jindal, who participated in the "Common Core: The Government's Classroom" webinar with Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who is running for the U.S. Senate. "I think you are going to see this trend only grow. The more that parents and teachers see this, the less they like it." Jindal has sued the U.S. Department of Education for allegedly violating the 10th amendment in the implementation of Common Core. Jindal, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, originally supported Common Core when he thought it would be a "state-lawed, bottom-up" approach to improving education standards. But Jindal has since reversed course and is now a staunch opponent of the...

Local firms take over contract to oversee $200M worth of EBR schools construction

CSRS and Tillage Construction have teamed up to manage some $200 million in construction projects for the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, a deal that is worth $6.9 million over five years. The local firms came together earlier this year to buy out Garrard Group—an Atlanta, Georgia-based firm that had been CSRS's partner in the management of school system facilities projects since 1999. "When the contract came back up for bid it was an opportunity for us to take all the business local," says CSRS owner Curt Soderberg. "Instead of having a partner in Atlanta I have a partner here." Though specific terms of the deal were not disclosed, CSRS has a 75% share of the joint venture. Tillage Construction has 25%. For Tillage, the significance of the partnership is as much about opening new doors as it is about generating a steady stream of revenues. "This gives Tillage Construction an opportunity to expand the services we offer, and it will give us a good piece of new business,"...

LSU supervisors to consider contract extensions for Alexander, Alleva and Caldwell

Contract extensions for some of the highest profile Tigers on the LSU payroll will be on the agenda when the LSU Board of Supervisors meets Friday. The board will consider extending for two additional years the contract of President F. King Alexander, whose current contract began on July 1, 2013, and is set to expire on June 30, 2017. Alexander is paid $600,000 annually. The board will also consider extending through mid-2019 the contracts of Athletic Director Joe Alleva and women's basketball coach Nikki Caldwell. Alleva has been with LSU since April 2008, and his current contract is set to expire June 30, 2016. Alleva makes $525,000 in base salary annually, with incentives of up to $200,000 available each year for such things as enhancing athletic department revenues and improving graduation rates. The proposed contract extension does not come with a pay raise for Alleva, according to the agenda. Caldwell is also up for a three-year extension on her contract, which is set to expire...

LSU rises in national ranking of colleges by 'US News & World Report'

LSU's ranking in the 2015 edition of U.S. News & World Report's annual listing of the nation's best colleges and universities has improved in both the Best National Universities and Top Public Schools categories. LSU's ranking among all national universities increased to No. 129, up six spots from a No. 135 ranking in last year's list. LSU is tied at No. 129 with five other schools: Arizona State University–Tempe, Ohio University, University of Cincinnati, University of Kentucky, and University of Utah. On the listing of the nation's best public colleges, LSU's ranking increased five spots from a year ago to No. 63. LSU is tied with the same five schools in the best public colleges ranking. "We're pleased that the U.S. News & World Report has again recognized LSU's excellence by placing it in the top tier," says LSU President F. King Alexander in a prepared statement issued this morning. "However, the measures that indicate real value, such as tuition rates,...

LWEI survey shows old attitudes persist about college degrees and jobs

As the Louisiana Workforce Education Initiative begins to fundraise and develop a marketing campaign aimed at changing negative perceptions about skilled jobs that do not require a four-year college degree, the group will use data from a new poll to help shape their message. Changing the message is important because Louisiana is expected to have a significant skilled workforce shortage over the next several years, the group says, and many people don't realize the opportunities available to them through technical career path education. More than 70% of those surveyed, for instance, believe skilled jobs are physically demanding, which isn't necessarily true, says Christel Slaughter, whose SSA Consultants is under contract to manage the operations of LWEI. Meanwhile, nearly half of those surveyed believe people think less of someone who doesn't have a four-year college degree, while...

Jindal continues to press Obama on Common Core while in New Hampshire

While in New Hampshire over the weekend, Gov. Bobby Jindal rallied Granite State Republicans, touted his recently filed lawsuit against the Obama administration over the national Common Core education standards and continued to attack the president for his handling of international issues. As The New Hampshire Union Leader reports, Jindal said Obama "has to secure the border" in brief remarks Saturday at the Strafford County GOP's annual picnic in Dover. Regarding immigration, Jindal said an influx of undocumented immigrants is fueling a "humanitarian crisis" in Louisiana. Jindal also focused on Republican Party unity in advance of the state's primary election on Tuesday. "No matter who wins, our candidates are better than their candidates," Jindal said, before accusing the Democratic Party of trying to "redefine the American dream" by promoting "bigger government." Jindal's...

Editor: New LSU center could help turn the tech tide

Technology transfer has long been one of those areas in which Louisiana lags, says Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel in her latest column. "We've got good researchers here, who come up with all sorts of cool discoveries and inventions," writes Riegel. "Too often, though, the buck seems to stop in the lab." Last month, state and LSU officials jointly announced the creation of a tech research center that, it is hoped, will help to address the problem. It's called the LSU Transformational Technology and Cyber Research Center, and, Riegel says, it is "not nearly the yawner its long-winded name might suggest." As LSU Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Stuart Bell explains, "The idea is to focus on the applied research model and look at newer technology apps—ideas we could turn into companies and producers that would have a high impact on Louisiana and actually generate jobs and opportunities." The role of the TTCRC will be to raise money and attract private grant...

La. business leaders launch fundraising drive to promote community, technical college career paths

The Louisiana Workforce Education Initiative, a nonprofit organization of statewide business leaders, kicks off fundraising today for a long-term campaign that organizers hope will steer more young people into the state's community and technical colleges and help plug an expected workforce shortage over the next few years. The goal of the campaign is to raise $1 million within 90 days and an additional $7 million over the next three years. Funds will be used for advertising, marketing and public outreach efforts to address long-standing attitudes and prejudices that have inhibited young people from choosing a "skills trade" career path over a four-year college degree path. "We knew there were barriers—negative perceptions—that exist among kids and parents about technical education," says Christel Slaughter, whose firm SSA is under contract to manage the operations of LWEI. "We need a campaign to change those attitudes about careers that are available with technical...

Union argues La. education law unconstitutional at state Supreme Court

Gov. Bobby Jindal's 2012 education overhaul bill was crammed with too many diverse elements—including teacher tenure changes, salaries, and a revamp of the powers of local school boards and superintendents—and violates the Louisiana Constitution, an attorney told the state Supreme Court today. "They went too far," attorney Larry Samuel told the court in arguments for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. "They had secondary purposes and more purposes than that." Attorney Jimmy Faircloth, hired by the Jindal administration to defend the law, said the bill satisfied constitutional requirements, with all of its subject matter devoted to education reform. "This is a dramatic paradigm shift in public education," Faircloth said. The legislation was the centerpiece of Jindal's legislative agenda at the beginning of his second term. The justices did not say when they would rule. Some provisions of the tenure law that drew criticism from teachers were changed in 2014. The changes...

'225': How the LSU tailgate has changed yet stayed the same

When LSU superfan Marvin "Big Ragoo" Dugas started tailgating, everything was on a smaller scale. "I'd bring my Magnalite pot, a Coleman stove and a black-and-white TV hooked up to my car battery," he tells 225 in a feature from the current issue. Over time, Dugas' tailgating traditions, crew and accoutrements have grown. Now, he has a group, called the Krewe Ragoo, which has meetings to divvy up responsibilities and who is bringing what. The members chip in dues and make plans to stage an area with a generator, two large-screen TVs, a satellite dish, sound system and more. "Tailgating is a big deal, and it gets bigger all the time," he says. As Maggie Heyn Richardson writes in the feature, "Serial LSU fans like Dugas have seen major growth and changes in the university's tailgate culture." In the beginning, tailgating was relegated to a few dignitaries. After the Tigers' national championship in 1958, fan support ignited. The culture picked up additional steam throughout the...

Executive Editor: Keeping the faith with LSU alums

In his latest column, Business Report Executive Editor David Dodson questions why the LSU Alumni Association—which recently underwent a change in leadership following a kiss-and-tell scandal—didn't bother to conduct an investigation or even ask simple questions before naming the disgraced leader's second-in-command to the top job. He wonders why the association didn't bother to conduct a "root cause analysis," a term used in the pipeline industry to describe the process of uncovering the mistakes behind an accidental rupture or explosion. "It would be exceedingly foolish to repeat whatever mistake caused the incident," Dodson writes. "You bring in your very best and brightest to tell you exactly what happened in every detail with ruthless disclosure of the facts, no matter how painful or damning." Dodson worries that the decision of the association's board to appoint the second-in-command as the new leader may discourage donations to an already short-funded...

MAPP part of joint venture tapped for LSU Taylor Hall construction

Skanska USA announced this morning that it has signed a $54 million contract to handle the renovation and expansion of Patrick F. Taylor Hall on the LSU campus. Skanska USA, whose parent company is headquartered in Sweden, says it will construct the project in a 70/30 joint venture with Baton Rouge-based MAPP Construction. Construction of the expansion to Taylor Hall—which will add approximately 126,000 square feet of classrooms, student support areas, engineering wet labs, office space, research labs and a new 200-seat auditorium—is set to begin in November. Work to renovate the existing building will begin in January, Skanska says. The LSU College of Engineering will see its available space in the hall, which currently measures about 306,000 square feet, double when the project is completed in June 2017. LSU announced in February that the College of Engineering had exceeded...

LSU Olinde Career Center opens in new location at Student Union

A facility designed to help students find their way in school, career and life has found a new home in the LSU Student Union in the heart of campus. A ribbon-cutting Tuesday to open the 17,000-square-foot, two-story LSU Olinde Career Center was attended by academics, dozens of sponsoring companies and members of the Olinde family, principal financial supporter behind the facility. "This whole project is about success," said Vice Chancellor Kurt Keppler. "Right here, in one central location in what I call the living room of the university, students can get information about majors, study various career interests, find internships, learn how to balance a budget and learn how to stay out of debt." Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret, an LSU graduate, who used the services of what was previously known as LSU Career Services, said the LSU Olinde Career Center is a far cry from the hard-to-find facility that helped him launch his career more than 20 years ago. "Students...

Highest paid college football coaches are worth their salaries, study says

According to a new study by researchers at Vanderbilt, college football coaches who command what are widely seen as very robust salaries are worth the money because of the value they bring to their universities. As The New York Times reports, the Vanderbilt study, which included 947 contracts from 2005 to 2013, benchmarked coaching salaries against those of chief executive officers at public companies—another group that is often accused of being paid too much. "Coaches are running large programs that have tremendous value," says Randall S. Thomas, a law and business professor and one of the authors of the study. "They are creating great value, and they are being paid for creating that value." He adds that coaches compare "quite directly to public company CEOs." The increasing demands to win, coupled with billion-dollar television deals, have combined to cause the average pay for coaches at the top level of Division I football to double since 2005 to $1.5 million, the...

'F is for faithful'

Mother Teresa was once questioned about working with the poorest of the poor in India: How could she be successful while people were dying in the streets?

Keeping the faith with LSU alums

In the natural gas pipeline business, things occasionally go wrong. A bad day is when a catastrophic failure of the asset you're relying on to make money results in an explosion and fire.

The TOPS effect

When the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students was created by the Legislature more than 20 years ago, the idea was to keep Louisiana's best and brightest students in the state. Not only has TOPS kept them here, but it is has kept them well—often in spiffy new digs tricked out with high-end amenities.

LSU, most of nation's top-tier college football programs fight shrinking student attendance

Average student attendance at college football games is down 7.1% since 2009, according to a new analysis by The Wall Street Journal of stadium turnstile records from about 50 public colleges with top-division football teams, including LSU. The decline was 5.6% at colleges in the five richest conferences. The decrease even at schools with entrenched football traditions and national championships stands in contrast to college football's overall popularity. The growing number of empty seats in student sections across the U.S. is a sign of soaring ticket prices, more lopsided games and fewer matchups against longtime rivals—not to mention the proliferation of televised games that make it easier than ever for students to keep tailgating long after kickoff. Colleges and athletic conferences are scrambling to lure students back, but it is a daunting challenge. "There are so many other things they can do that maybe going to the game that day isn't the most important thing on...

Pro-voucher group seeks to undo order in La. case

A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program. The Associated Press reports U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle ordered the reports in April. He ruled that they are needed to make sure Louisiana complies with a 1975 desegregation order about state money going to private schools. The order requires that the state provide federal officials with lists of voucher applicants, information on schools in the voucher program, and enrollment and racial breakdowns on public schools and private schools in the voucher program. A group of voucher families, represented by the conservative Goldwater Institute, say the ruling resulted from a Justice Department effort to "stifle" the voucher program. Also involved in the appeal is the Louisiana Black Alliance for Educational Options, a pro-voucher group. State officials have said the ruling won't impede...

'Business Report': Are short stints by EBR schools superintendents hurting classroom outcomes?

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board in 2012 unanimously hired Bernard Taylor to be the system's next superintendent. In 2014 the board voted 10-1 not to extend his contract, which means Taylor, like his predecessor, John Dilworth, likely won't serve more than three years. Dennis Dearden, associate executive director with the American Association of School Administrators tells Business Report that a brief term at the top is pretty much the norm for an urban schools leader. He says the average tenure at an urban district is about 2.5 or 2.6 years, compared to roughly six years at smaller districts. But just because a brief tenure is typical doesn't mean it isn't worrisome, Dearden says. "There's a definite correlation between superintendent tenure and student achievement," agrees Dana Bickmore, an assistant professor at the LSU School of Education. "It's a pretty direct line." Of course, correlation doesn't prove causation. And Bickmore says some research shows the...

Jindal suing feds over Common Core

Gov. Bobby Jindal filed a lawsuit this morning against the Obama administration, accusing it of illegally manipulating federal grant money and regulations to force states to adopt the Common Core education standards. The U.S. Department of Education has used a $4.3 billion grant program and federal policy waivers to encourage states to adopt uniform education standards and testing. Jindal says that "effectively forces states down a path toward a national curriculum" in violation of the state sovereignty clause in the Constitution and federal laws that prohibit national control of education content. The legal challenge puts Jindal, who is considering a 2016 presidential bid, at the forefront of a dispute between conservatives and President Barack Obama, bolstering the governor's profile on the issue as he's trying to court conservative voters nationwide. "The federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative," Jindal says in a statement. More than 40 states,...

LSU president continues to push for national college scorecard

LSU President F. King Alexander is among higher education leaders in the country who are backing President Barack Obama's proposed scorecard for U.S. colleges in the hope it will steer more federal aid to them and away from underperforming for-profit institutions. "Student aid won't be around in 10 years if we don't do something to distinguish the good guys from bad guys," Alexander tells Bloomberg. While a cross-section of college presidents have voiced opposition to the concept, leaders of some public schools are emerging as advocates. They say the measure will showcase the value they offer while stemming the distribution of federal loans and grants to so-called diploma mills that saddle students with debt and poor job prospects. The Education Department is preparing to release a draft ratings plan this year and a final version next year that could bolster better-performing public colleges that charge less than their private counterparts. Federal officials say the scorecard will...

Editor: Lessons from the Roberts scandal

Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel says there are several lessons to take away from the recent scandal involving Charlie Roberts, the longtime president and CEO of the LSU Alumni Association who resigned earlier this month after being hit with a salacious lawsuit by a former employee/ex-girlfriend. "Among them: Unchecked power is never a good thing," writes Riegel in her latest column. "Neither is dating your employee. Organizations need regular turnover at the top. Discretion is still the better part of valor, and neither that—nor wisdom—necessarily comes with age." Riegel says that in resigning, Roberts, 78, did the only thing that he could under the circumstances. "His ex-girlfriend Kay Heath, 63, alleges in her suit that he and the association owe her $21,000 in back payments—money she says she was promised if she would quit her job as a contract employee at the association once her relationship with Roberts began to raise eyebrows." Even though...

Feasibility study being conducted on school focused on low-income youth

New Schools for Baton Rouge, a nonprofit seeking to establish schools in low-income areas of the city, is hoping to bring in a Catholic organization that partners with local businesses in the cities it operates. The 28 schools in the Cristo Rey Network across the country pair students with businesses for hands-on job experience. Money that the students earn at those jobs goes toward their tuition. Because Cristo Rey hopes also to draw funding from the state's voucher program, the work-study system could cut down on costs to the state. New Schools CEO Chris Meyer says his organization is conducting a feasibility study to look into, among other factors, what businesses may be interested in such a partnership. From 6 to 7 p.m. tonight, a reception and informational meeting will be held at the Catholic Life Center, 1800 South Acadian Thruway, to kick off the feasibility study. Meyer says...

ACT analysis: Scores same or slightly lower in La.

Average composite ACT scores for students in Louisiana were the same or slightly down from 2013 to 2014, depending on the way they were calculated, state officials announced this morning, while also noting that more students are taking the college preparatory test and more are scoring well enough to qualify for state TOPS awards. Louisiana began requiring all public high school students to take the ACT test last year, regardless of whether they planned to attend college. ACT scores are now used in figuring accountability ratings for schools and school districts. The education department notes in its analysis that students can take the test more than once. When students' best scores are considered, the state average score is 19.1, unchanged from 2013; when the "most recent" scores are averaged, the average...

News alert: Judge rules against Jindal administration in Common Core suit

A state judge ruled late today in favor of a group of teachers and parents who support the Common Core education standards and want Gov. Bobby Jindal's actions against the standards invalidated. 19th Judicial District Court Judge Todd Hernandez granted the plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction against the Jindal administration, one day after a lengthy hearing on the matter. Hernandez's ruling prohibits from going into effect an executive order signed by Jindal earlier this summer and opposed by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which was also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Jindal's order partially suspends the education department's contract with the company that provides testing based on the Common Core standards. In his ruling, Hernandez says, "The Louisiana Constitution is clear: … BESE is a constitutionally created entity with a mandate to supervise and control the public elementary, secondary and special schools in the state."

Stepping down

Embattled LSU Alumni Association head Charlie Roberts has resigned.

Lessons from a scandal

There are several lessons to take away from the recent scandal involving Charlie Roberts, the long-time president and CEO of the LSU Alumni Association who resigned earlier this month after being hit with a salacious lawsuit by a former employee/ex-girlfriend.

Short-timers

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board in 2012 unanimously hired Bernard Taylor to be the system's next superintendent. In 2014 the board voted 10-1 not to extend his contract, which means Taylor, like his predecessor, John Dilworth, likely won't serve more than three years.

LSU creating tech and cyber research center to pursue federal, commercial projects

The state and LSU are partnering to create a new technology and cyber research center at the state's flagship university that they hope will land at least $10 million in research contracts by the start of 2016. LSU President F. King Alexander and Gov. Bobby Jindal jointly announced the creation of the LSU Transformational Technology and Cyber Research Center today, saying the goal is for the center to have secured at least $30 million in contracts by July 1, 2017. The center will pursue major federal and commercial research projects in applied technology fields. Initially, it will be funded in part by the state and LSU in a challenge grant configuration by which the state will provide $1 and LSU $0.50 for every $10 in research funds the center attracts in its first three years. The LSU Board of Supervisors still needs to OK the center's creation and funding structure. The center is aiming to raise $34.5 million in funding over its first three years, with $3 million to come from the...

Judge hearing arguments in Common Core lawsuit today

A group of teachers and parents who support Common Core is asking a state judge to invalidate Gov. Bobby Jindal's actions against the multi-state education standards. District Judge Todd Hernandez is hearing arguments today in the preliminary injunction request. The hearing is set to begin at 10:30 a.m. in 19th Judicial District Court. The Common Core standards are math and English benchmarks describing what students should know after completing each grade. Seven parents and two teachers, along with a charter school organization, sued Jindal after he suspended contracts the education department planned to use to buy testing material aligned with Common Core. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education joined in suing Jindal. They allege that the governor violated constitutional provisions that establish authority over education policy in the state. Jindal's lawyer says the Republican governor exercised his statutory authority over state contracting and did nothing improper. In a...

News Alert: LSU Alumni Association dropped from lawsuit

The LSU Alumni Association has been dropped from a lawsuit filed earlier this month against the organization and its former president and CEO, Charlie Roberts, by a one-time employee and former girlfriend of Roberts. In a motion filed late today in 19th Judicial District Court, Kay Heath asks the court to dismiss her claims against the association, though the suit against Roberts will move forward. Heath had vowed in a public statement last week she would drop her suit against the association if it would disassociate itself from Roberts or pressure him to resign. Roberts submitted his resignation letter Wednesday. In her suit, Heath claims Roberts owes her $21,000—money that she was promised if she would resign from her position at the association after her relationship with Roberts began raising eyebrows. —Stephanie Riegel

BR among US metros with largest share of students attending private schools

Nationally, about 10% of students in grades kindergarten through 12 attend a private school. In Baton Rouge, private school attendance is nearly twice that—at 19.1%—which ranks it No. 4 nationally for private school attendance by percentage among the country's 100 largest metro areas. And according to a new analysis of enrollment figures by CityLab.com, a website of The Atlantic, New Orleans has the highest concentration of private school students in the U.S., at 25.1%. Honolulu is said to have the second-highest share at 20.7%, followed by San Francisco, at 19.9%. Among smaller U.S. metro areas, CityLab.com says Lafayette also stands out for its high share of students enrolled in private school, but a specific figure is not provided. The website notes the cost of private schools is high across the country, averaging nearly $11,000 per student per year, not counting discounts or scholarships. "This ranges from $7,000 for Catholic schools and $9,000 for other...

News Alert: Roberts resigns as LSU Alumni Association president and CEO

Charlie Roberts, the embattled head of the LSU Alumni Association, submitted a letter of resignation to the association's legal counsel this afternoon. The association immediately accepted the resignation, according to a statement from acting CEO Cliff Vannoy. Roberts had taken annual leave after a former employee filed suit against him personally and against the Alumni Association, a non-profit organization independent of LSU, alleging that he had reneged on an agreement to pay her a monthly stipend to compensate her after she was let go by Roberts. The employee, Kay Heath, alleged that she and Roberts had maintained a long-term sexual affair. In the letter, Roberts maintains his innocence and says he is confident he will prevail in the lawsuit Heath has filed against him. “However, I cannot stand by and let my continued active employment be a magnet for her obvious determination to destroy the association,” reads the letter.

La. teachers get more support to teach Common Core standards

While legal battles continue in court over whether Common Core will remain the state's standards for reading, writing and math, the Department of Education is moving forward with a package to help teachers use it in their classrooms. As The Shreveport Times reports, Superintendent of Education John White and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Chas Roemer maintain that until they are forced to change, Common Core will remain in public schools. "As we enter the fifth year of our state's transition to higher expectations, it is essential that we continue to provide teachers with every resource we can, so that they can help their students reach new heights," says White, who announced today new training opportunities and new sample test questions to assist teachers. A Baton Rouge judge is considering whether Gov. Bobby Jindal abused his constitutional authority when he blocked the education department's effort to purchase test questions aligned with Common Core.

Judge to rule on Common Core suit involving Jindal

Attorneys for Gov. Bobby Jindal and his administration claim that the parents, teachers and charter school operator who filed suit against the governor for blocking state testing of Common Core standards have no authority to do so, Gannett Louisiana reports. But just in case 19th Judicial District Judge Todd Hernandez rules against the governor's position, his attorneys argued in court today that Jindal, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols and two of her employees cannot be forced to testify in court or give depositions prior to a court hearing. "They cannot take testimony from a sitting governor," argued Jimmy Faircloth, Jindal's attorney hired to defend him in the case. He says state law makes clear that, "You can't depose a governor … Gov. Jindal is not personally a defendant. He is a defendant in his official capacity." Stephen Kupperman, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said in court today that Jindal "does raise the specter of privilege," arguing that his...

First hearing today on Common Core suit against Jindal

The politically-heated dispute over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards is scheduled for its first hearing before a state district judge. Today's hearing, which is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m., involves a lawsuit filed by parents and teachers who support Common Core and accuse the governor of violating the Louisiana Constitution in his actions against the multi-state standards. Jindal, who opposes Common Core, is asking Judge Todd Hernandez to dismiss much of the lawsuit. His lawyer also wants the judge to forbid depositions of the governor, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols and other administration officials. Most members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education support Common Core, and the board has joined the lawsuit against Jindal. The lawsuit claims the governor overstepped his authority in suspending testing contracts to stop the...

NAACP lawsuit challenges EBR school board change

Members of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board are keeping mum about a suit filed Thursday against them by the local chapter of the NAACP challenging the board's July decision to shrink the number of seats on the board from 11 to nine. The suit asks the court to immediately block the reapportionment from going into effect and also seeks a permanent injunction against the measure, arguing that it violates numerous state laws. The suit was not unexpected. "We did everything that we could to keep them from doing this because they knew at the time it was not in compliance with Louisiana law, but they did it anyway," says Alfreda Bester, attorney for the NAACP Louisiana state conference. "The outcry was just overwhelmingly opposed to it but they, for whatever reason, elected to move forward, and we told them if they did we would be forced to file this suit." Domoine Rutledge, an attorney for the EBR school system, says he cannot comment on the matter because the board has yet to be...

LSU and alumni association working jointly on inquiry into lawsuit allegations

In a statement issued earlier today, LSU administration officials announced that Cliff Vannoy, chief operating officer of the LSU Alumni Association, will serve as the association's acting CEO while President and CEO Charlie Roberts is on annual leave. Roberts announced this morning he would take leave so as not to be a distraction to the university while a lawsuit filed earlier this week against him and the association makes it way through the court system. The suit, filed by former association employee Kay Heath, alleges that Roberts and the association owe her money as part of a deal they made with her to end her employment following a long-term sexual relationship with Roberts. In its statement, LSU seeks to underscore the seriousness with which the administration is taking the allegations, saying the university has taken "an immediate inquiry in cooperation with the Alumni...

Legislators to explore Common Core alternatives on Oklahoma trip

A delegation of six Louisiana state representatives will travel to Oklahoma on Aug. 22 to meet with legislators and explore options for replacing Common Core with educational standards that are state-controlled. In June, Oklahoma became the third state to withdraw from Common Core. The delegation will meet with Oklahoma legislators and grassroots education leaders who authored and passed the legislation to reassert state control over standards and assessments, according to a statement released by the Louisiana legislators involved. The delegation will be meeting with, among others, the authors of HB 3399, which repealed Oklahoma's incorporation of Common Core and directed the state to develop new academic standards. The bill passed both houses of the Oklahoma Legislature overwhelmingly and was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. The Louisiana legislators will integrate their findings from Oklahoma into their ongoing efforts to craft solutions for replacing Common Core in Louisiana,...

Embattled LSU Alumni Association leader takes leave

Officials with LSU and with the university's alumni association are expected to release a joint statement later today regarding the association's embattled president and CEO, Charlie Roberts, who has taken annual leave from his position in the wake of a lawsuit and alleged sex scandal. Roberts filed for leave this morning, just one day after his attorney, Mary Olive Pierson, said he would not be resigning from the position he has held for decades. Today, Pierson says Roberts decided to take leave after recognizing the lawsuit would be a distraction for the university. Alumni Association Board Chairman Dr. Fred Rew also says the decision to take leave was Roberts' choice. "He requested this and I accepted it," Rew says. "I am in support of it." But pressure was clearly mounting on Roberts to step down. In a previous conversation late Thursday, Rew said the association was prepared to...

News alert: Roberts taking leave

LSU Alumni Association President and CEO Charlie Roberts is taking annual leave from the position he has held for decades. The move comes in the wake of a lawsuit filed earlier this week against Roberts and the association by a former employee over money she claims she is owed as part of an arrangement to end her employment following a long-term sexual relationship with Roberts. Roberts submitted paperwork to the association earlier this morning, according to his attorney, Mary Olive Pierson, who says the decision to take annual leave was his alone. "He is taking leave so we can defend this lawsuit and get our ducks in a row," Pierson says. "He felt this would become a distraction at the university, and he didn't want that to happen." Read more in Daily Report AM. —Stephanie Riegel

LSU prez: Obama higher education scorecard would end era of misleading prospective students

In a podcast with the London weekly magazine Times Higher Education, LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander praises President Barack Obama's proposal to create a scorecard to rate colleges on graduation rates, affordability and graduate earnings, saying it will bring an end to the practice of mis-selling the benefits of higher education to students and parents. Alexander says that some institutions fear the new ratings system because they have been misleading prospective students and charging tuition fees that are too high. "The era of universities saying 'trust us, we're worth it', is over," he says. "I hear concern from my colleagues at many institutions that really do not want to provide this information to parents, because they are concerned they have overcharged." But given the cost of higher education in the U.S., Alexander says, it is right that such information be shared. "[LSU is] saying look at what our graduates can do, look at what they are doing," he says.

Jindal amends Common Core suit, arguing PARCC violates federal law

Gov. Bobby Jindal filed an amended petition today asking a judge to prohibit state education leaders from using testing material tied to the Common Core standards in Louisiana's public schools. Jindal's lawsuit, originally filed July 29, is now seeking an injunction that would keep the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Education from administering any standardized tests developed through the testing consortium aligned with Common Core known as PARCC. The injunction request was filed in state district court. Jindal's new argument is that the testing consortium, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, “is the implementation platform for a carefully orchestrated federal scheme to supervise, direct and control educational curriculum, programs of instruction and instructional materials in direct violation of federal law. And the scheme is being perpetrated on the pretext of higher standards promised by Common...

Former employee sues LSU Alumni Association over payoff arrangement for sexual affair

Kay Heath, a former volunteer and contract employee of the LSU Alumni Association, is suing the association and Charlie Roberts, its president and CEO, over money she claims she is owed as part of an arrangement to end her employment following a long-term sexual relationship with Roberts. The alumni association is an independent, nonprofit organization with close ties to the university but operates as a separate agency, and LSU is not named as a defendant. Heath claims Roberts offered her a job at the alumni association to "entice" her to continue a sexual relationship that she and Roberts started while she was still married. The suit alleges Roberts told Heath in April 2012 he had been advised by "certain members of the Association Board" that the relationship was illicit and one of them would have to resign. Roberts told Heath she should be the one to go, the suit alleges. Heath claims that at Roberts' direction, he or the alumni association paid her approximately $83,200 between...

LSU named 'best value' college by 'Forbes'

LSU is among the top "best value" colleges in the nation, according to a new annual ranking issued by Forbes. By looking at a school's quality score—calculated for Forbes' overall annual rankings—divided by the school's published in-state tuition and fees, the magazine identified 25 best value schools—top colleges and universities that deliver the goods without picking your pocket. With an overall rank of 190 out of 650 and an in-state tuition of $7,873, LSU ranked 23rd on the best value list and was accompanied by several other schools in the south, including the University of Florida (9th), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (10th), New College of Florida (12th), Florida State University (13th), the University of Texas at Austin (19th), Texas A&M University (22nd) and North Carolina State University (25th). See the complete...

White says small overpayments found in voucher program have been recouped

Auditors looking at state payments to private schools through Louisiana's $35 million voucher program found about $52,000 in overpayments during the last school year, The Associated Press reports. Education Superintendent John White says the money has been recouped from the schools, by backing the dollars out of the last round of tuition payments. White praised the audit findings in a prepared release, saying they show the program is humming along with no significant problems. "Once again, scholarship schools demonstrated compliance with state laws on the findings in the audits," White says. "The Department worked with legislators to enhance accounting procedures of the non-public schools participating in the Scholarship Program to ensure funding was distinguishable. All funding from audit findings have been recouped." He...

Vitter describes his strong support for Common Core

Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter offered definitive support today for the Common Core education standards, a position that puts him at odds with Gov. Bobby Jindal but that could bolster business community backing as the senator fundraises for the 2015 governor's race. "I support the strong standards Louisiana now has in place and think Gov. Jindal's attempt to start from scratch right before the new school year is very disruptive," the senator says in a statement to The Associated Press. Common Core standards are grade-by-grade benchmarks of what students should learn in English and math, adopted by more than 40 states. Vitter's statement follows his description of the standards as "very strong, significant, positive standards" in an interview taped for C-SPAN's Newsmakers, set to air Sunday. The comments were the first time Vitter has taken a position on the standards. His backing of Common Core also comes as Jindal is taking steps to undermine the standards and remove them...

More La. high school students earning college credits

The number of college credits Louisiana high school students earned this school year through Advanced Placement exams was nearly 25% higher than the previous year, the Louisiana Department of Education announced today. That means more than 1,250 additional college credits were earned by students, compared to 2013, which pushed total credits earned to an all-time high, the department says. Students scored high enough on AP exams to earn 6,410 college credits in 2014, compared to 5,144 in 2013 and 4,112 in 2012. The data released today also show more high school students are taking AP courses and exams, with 28,009 course enrollments in 2014, compared to 23,485 enrollments in 2013. The department says studies show that students who take AP courses and exams are better prepared for college-level courses, more likely to graduate college within four to five years and are more competitive in qualifying for scholarships. The department has

Hearing dates set in Common Core lawsuits

Mid-August hearing dates have been set for dueling lawsuits over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools. The Associated Press reports Judge Tim Kelley will hear arguments Aug. 15 in a lawsuit filed by 17 state lawmakers who are seeking an immediate suspension of the multi-state English and math standards in schools. The lawsuit alleges the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the education department did not follow state law to enact Common Core. On Aug. 18, Judge Todd Hernandez will consider arguments in a separate lawsuit filed by parents and teachers who have sued Gov. Bobby Jindal. Their lawsuit alleges Jindal violated the Louisiana Constitution by issuing a series of executive orders aimed at undermining Common Core. BESE on Tuesday voted to join in the effort against the governor, who in turn filed his own lawsuit in an attempt to...

LSU to host its first-ever hackathon next month

For the first time in the university's history, LSU will host a 24-hour hackathon event. To be held on campus Aug. 30-31, GeauxHack was created by a group of undergraduates. "We wanted to organize a student hackathon here because unlike competitive programming competitions, hackathons are more product oriented," event organizer Howard Wang tells Silicon Bayou. "Being students ourselves, we feel that hackathons help turn computer science students into developers." GeauxHack is expecting at least 150 people to register for the event, which is free. All currently enrolled college or university students are eligible to compete, as well as some high school students on a case-by-case basis. GeauxHack is not only the first hackathon for LSU, it's the first such event to take place in Louisiana that is being sanctioned by Major League Hacking, which powers the official student...

BESE to join Common Core suit against Jindal; governor files his own suit

Shortly after Louisiana's state school board voted this afternoon to join a lawsuit filed to challenge Gov. Bobby Jindal's efforts to block implementation of the Common Core education standards, the Jindal administration announced the governor has filed his own lawsuit to block the use of a test affiliated with the controversial education standards. Jindal opposes the multi-state standards, while Education Superintendent John White and most members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education continue to support them. The board voted 6-4 at a special meeting in Baton Rouge today to join the suit filed on behalf of several parents, educators and charter school managers in the state. That suit was one of two filed over Common Core last week; another came from lawmakers who are also seeking to block implementation. The lawsuit BESE is joining accuses Jindal of illegally meddling...

BESE sets another special meeting to discuss possible Common Core lawsuit

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday will hold its second special meeting this month to discuss a possible lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration over the ongoing Common Core controversy. The meeting will take place at 11 a.m. in the Louisiana Purchase Room of the Claiborne Building, 1201 N. 3rd St. In a brief news release issued today, BESE says it will "receive updates and discuss possible additional actions related to standardized testing for the 2014-15 school year" at the special meeting. At a special meeting on July 1, BESE authorized hiring special legal counsel, without charge, to consider a legal challenge of the Jindal administration's suspension of contracts for tests associated with Common Core. BESE also directed Superintendent of Education John White to try to reach a compromise with the governor. The two have since met, but no compromise was reached. In the meantime,

Faculty and staff at LSU's flagship campus get pay raise second year in a row

LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander's announcement today that faculty and staff at the flagship campus will get a 3% merit raise in the coming 2014-15 academic year is getting high marks from those inside and outside the university. "This is really good news," says Barry Erwin, president of the Council for A Better Louisiana. "After so long, with universities feeling beat up, morale has been very low at LSU in particular. This will certainly help with morale and retention." Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope cautions that LSU still won't be as competitive as it needs to be on faculty salaries, even with the raise. But he says it's another good step that builds on the momentum created by last year's pay bump, which was a 4% merit increase. "We had already fallen further behind in terms of rewards and compensation than would be made up by this pair of raises," Cope says. "But it is now absolutely clear that the first raise was not a fluke." He adds that he hopes and expects...

CABL says Common Core saga represents "disturbing" use of gubernatorial power

In commentary released today by Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana, residents of Louisiana are urged to understand that the Common Core debate has gone far beyond a difference of opinion on how Louisiana's children should be educated and has "morphed into a new debate that should prompt everyone who believes in some semblance of the democratic process to raise serious questions about how state government is supposed to work." The real question, CABL says, is "do we want a governor—any governor—to wield authority in such a way that it usurps the processes on which most people believe our country was founded." CABL acknowledges that Gov. Bobby Jindal is well within his rights to change his mind on the subject of academic standards, "but it is not right to then seek to impose that will on the entire state, despite the overwhelming votes of the constitutionally created Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Legislature to the contrary."

News alert: Faculty and staff at LSU's flagship campus get 3% pay raise; second in a year

In a letter to faculty and staff at LSU's main campus, the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center and the LSU AgCenter, President and Chancellor F. King Alexander announced this afternoon that they will receive an average 3% merit pay increase for the 2014-15 academic year. "After having one of our strongest legislative sessions in many years and what appears to be another enrollment boost this fall, we felt that it is imperative to recognize your hard work and dedication while continuing to build on the momentum we created with last year's 4% merit increase," the letter says. That previous increase was announced July 26, 2013, just under a year to the day from the current pay raise. Alexander says the raises, along with pension reform measures approved during the latest legislative session, help LSU be more competitive nationally in recruiting and retaining faculty and staff. "Please know that we greatly appreciate your efforts and dedication to LSU," King told employees. Read the full story...

Double up on tax exemptions for school supplies during state sales tax holiday, LDR says

Many back-to-school expenses are eligible for state income tax deductions, according to a release by the Louisiana Department of Revenue. The three income tax breaks under Louisiana School Tuition and Expense Deductions include deductions for elementary and secondary school tuition, public school uniforms, textbooks and school supplies required by schools, and home-school expenses. In addition to these deductions—for which year-round school expenses qualify—school supply purchases during the state's annual sales tax holiday will also benefit from a state sales tax exemption. The tax holiday will be Aug. 1 and 2, when most retail purchases are exempt from the 4% state sales tax. Read the LDR's full release.

BESE effort to hire lawyer draws questions from Jindal administration

Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration says it needs further details before deciding whether to sign off on the state school board's plan to hire a law firm that would pursue a possible lawsuit against the governor. As The Associated Press reports, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Jindal for his efforts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools. Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, whose office reviews state agency contracts, requested more information today from BESE about its contract with a law firm that has agreed to represent the education board for free. In a letter sent to Education Superintendent John White, BESE Executive Director Heather Cope and BESE President Chas Roemer, Nichols says that while her agency "encourages BESE in its efforts to follow the law and comply with procurement code, there are some concerns that must be addressed before the...

Jindal outlines his reasons for fighting Common Core

In his latest guest column, Gov. Bobby Jindal outlines why he's fighting against Common Core in a battle that has frayed the governor's relationship with Superintendent of Education John White, as well as the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education—and resulted this week in the filing of two lawsuits in as many days regarding the national education standards. "We believe parents and teachers are our best educators, not government bureaucrats," Jindal says in the column. "To use a football analogy, we think the best strategy on education reform is to hand the ball off to parents and teachers and empower them to improve education quality for our children." The governor cites rising graduation rates in the state, a reduction in the number of failing schools and

Why I fight for local control of education

People often ask, what do I think is the most important issue facing Louisiana? Or, if I could accomplish just one thing as Governor what would it be?

Lawsuit filed to stop Common Core use in La.

Seventeen state lawmakers are heading to court to try to stop Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools. Rep. Brett Geymann, a Republican who opposes the standards, tells The Associated Press the lawsuit was filed today. He says the state education board didn't follow Louisiana's administrative procedures law for rolling out new standards in classrooms. The legal challenge is part of a continuing struggle over Common Core, which has become controversial since the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the standards in 2010. Gov. Bobby Jindal, a one-time Common Core supporter, now opposes the standards as a federal intrusion into local education. But he and other Common Core critics have been unable to persuade BESE to change course. Lawmakers also upheld use of the standards.

Supporters of smaller school board push back against opposition

A smaller East Baton Rouge Parish School Board could be more efficient and effective with less discord, says Baton Rouge Area Chamber Senior Vice President of Economic Competitiveness Michael DiResto, citing research from the Georgia-based Commission for School Board Excellence, the Council for the Great City Schools in Washington, D.C., the University of Virginia, Vanderbilt University and other sources. Large school systems nationally tend to have boards with seven to nine members, he says, compared to EBR's 11. DiResto says he wouldn't expect running for school board to become significantly more expensive. The Parish Executive Committee of the Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish voted 13-1 on Sunday to oppose the reduction. Party chairman Woody Jenkins issued a statement saying the move "would allow BRAC to pour money into the campaigns of its hand-picked candidates and attempt to control the school board," adding that BRAC is "pushing for the school board to reapportion...

New Common Core procurement process not an attempt to reopen broader policy debate, Jindal aide says

Gov. Bobby Jindal still wants Louisiana out of Common Core, says Chief of Staff Kyle Plotkin. But beginning a new procurement process for student tests is not an opportunity for Jindal to make that policy argument once again, Plotkin says. "All [an RFP] does is ensure that the Department of Education is taking part in a competitive bid process that's in accordance with the law," he says. Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said in a Wednesday conference call with reporters that the Procurement Support Team, an advisory group including representatives of the Attorney General's Office, the Legislative Fiscal Office, the Division of Administration and the House and Senate, must be brought in to help the Department of Education ensure that any new RFP complies with the law. When asked if the team would engage in a policy debate about the content of the tests, she answered, "Yes, that's the statutory framework for PST." The RFP sets out contractual terms and the state's rights,...

$300M in borrowing for La. community colleges approved

Louisiana's community colleges are about to start a construction boom. The State Bond Commission agreed Thursday to let the Louisiana Community and Technical College System borrow $300 million to pay for a list of 29 construction projects. State lawmakers approved a bill in 2013 that allows LCTCS to sidestep the traditional construction budget process for the projects, over the opposition of Louisiana's then-higher education commissioner. Supporters say the projects will beef up worker training to meet industry job demands and aid economic development efforts. The Associated Press reports the state will pay off the borrowing, done through bond sales to investors, with interest over 25 years. At least 12% of a project's cost has to be matched with private dollars before construction begins. Repayment costs for the state will be $22 million a year.

ULL shuts down after device found near campus

Students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette were told to stay in their on-campus apartments and commuters were sent home this morning after police found a suspicious device in a park next to the campus. Lafayette police spokesman Kyle Soriez tells The Associated Press police received a phoned-in threat shortly after 5:35 a.m. that a bomb had been placed at the 33-acre Girard Park, a public recreational facility next to the sprawling, 1,500-acre university campus. Soriez says police and firefighters sent to the scene located what they believed was a suspicious device in a trash can. He says authorities had not yet attempted to remove the device. Soriez did not have a description of the device. State police say they are sending a hazardous materials team to the park. The area around the park, including the university, was blocked off as a precaution. The university has cancelled classes on the campus today and moved other scheduled events off campus. It has told staff and...

BESE offers up compromise on Common Core controversy

Leaders of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education have proposed a compromise that could help bridge the growing divide between BESE and Gov. Bobby Jindal over Common Core educational standards and associated tests. BESE President Chas Roemer, Vice President Jim Garvey and Secretary-Treasurer Holly Boffy outlined their proposal in a four-page letter to Jindal earlier today. It calls for using a hybrid test during the upcoming school year that combines science and social studies questions from the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program, or LEAP test, as well as English and math questions from the tests used in the Common Core program. While the proposal may not satisfy the governor's stated goal of getting Louisiana out of the Common Core program, Roemer says his plan would allow educators to begin preparing for the upcoming school year, which starts in less than four weeks. He believes it will also satisfy the technical arguments the Jindal administration has tried to use...

BR business leaders outraged over Jindal's latest Common Core move

Business leaders are outraged by the latest salvo in the escalating battle between Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Louisiana Department of Education over the Common Core education standards. In a letter Wednesday, the Division of Administration restricted Superintendent of Education John White's authority to execute contracts. While he previously had the authority to execute contracts of up to $20,000, the letter says he now must get approval from the Office of Contractual Review for any contract exceeding $2,000. "I cannot be more disappointed in the leadership of the state," says Lane Grigsby, who opposed Jindal's efforts in the recent legislative session to dismantle Common Core. "They scream when Obama uses his executive authority to do what he wants, but no one stands up and tells our local little emperor he's got no clothes." Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols says her...

News alert: Jindal restricts White's authority to approve contracts exceeding $2K

The Jindal administration has restricted Superintendent of Education John White's authority to execute contracts of more than $2,000. Previously, White had the authority to execute contracts of up to $20,000. White was notified of the decision by the Division of Administration in a letter dated Wednesday. "Any professional, personal, consulting or social services contracts exceeding $2,000 which your agency enters into from this date forward will require the approval of the Office of Contractual Review," reads the letter. The move comes amidst escalating tensions between White and the governor over the implementation of Common Core education standards in public schools. On Tuesday, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to seek outside lawyers for guidance in the growing dispute over Jindal's efforts to undermine Common Core. Read Daily Report PM for more...

Education board still considering next move on Common Core

As of 3 p.m., Louisiana's education board was still considering its next move in a fight with Gov. Bobby Jindal over the Common Core education standards in public schools, which the governor once supported and now is trying to derail. Louisiana's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education convened a special meeting around noon today to consider responses to Jindal's efforts, including whether to file a lawsuit. Among those addressing the board today were Education Superintendent John White and Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols. The current fight centers on who has the authority to determine what standardized tests are used in the state's schools. The Republican governor has suspended a state contract to keep the education department from buying testing material for third-graders through eighth-graders that is tied to Common Core. Jindal says the department didn't follow state procurement law in choosing the standardized test it would use. BESE President Chas Roemer and...

Coalition including BRAC, LABI want BESE to sue Jindal over Common Core

Louisiana's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is holding a special meeting at 11:30 a.m. today to consider responses to Gov. Bobby Jindal's efforts to derail the Common Core education standards in public schools. The education board is expected to discuss what happens next, including whether or not to file a lawsuit against Jindal over who has the authority to determine the standardized tests used in Louisiana's schools. A half hour before the meeting starts, a coalition of 40 business leaders, education advocacy organizations, parents and educators is slated to gather in Baton Rouge to publicly reaffirm their commitment to Common Core. In a prepared statement, the coalition—which includes local representatives such as the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Louisiana Association of Business & Industry and Cajun Industries, among others—says it believes Jindal "is challenging the legal authority of BESE to do its job" with his actions. The Republican governor has...

La. 'still moving forward' with Common Core standards, CABL president says

Barry Erwin, president and CEO of the Council for a Better Louisiana, says Gov. Bobby Jindal's executive order to pull Louisiana out of tests associated with the Common Core education standards ultimately will not keep Common Core standards out of Louisiana schools. Erwin, guest speaker at the Baton Rouge Press Club today, notes that Jindal's request to withdraw Louisiana from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers requires the signatures of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's president and the Superintendent of Education. "The bottom line is … BESE hasn't changed its mind and the superintendent hasn't changed his mind. [So] we're still moving forward," Erwin says, meaning schools will once again be teaching according to Common Core standards for the 2014-2015 school year. BESE meets on Tuesday to consider initiating litigation against...

Feud between White, Jindal over Common Core heats up

The simmering feud between Superintendent of Education John White and Gov. Bobby Jindal over Common Core appears to be nearing a boiling point. In an interview with Politico published Wednesday evening, White—who was hand-picked by Jindal to lead the department in January 2012 and has been a long-time ally—accuses the governor of violating the civil rights of poor children with his decision last week to renounce the Common Core academic standards. Jindal "breached a constitutional line and broke the law in suspending assessments in Louisiana for reasons that defy the civil rights of our state's citizens," White says. He goes on to tell Politico that "it is high irony that people who support the civil right to choose a school don't support the civil right to have all students take the same test," adding: "Lowering expectations comes in many forms." Jindal spokesman Mike Reed dismisses White's allegations and says it's the education department that's violating...

Flip-flop fallout

Gov. Bobby Jindal finally has completed his slow-motion flip-flop on Common Core, from supporter to skeptic to outright opponent.

'America's Educator' Ron Clark to deliver keynote at Dream Teachers event in BR

Known to many as "America's Educator," Ron Clark—the 2000 Disney American Teacher of the Year, New York Times best-selling author and founder of the Ron Clark Academy—will return to Baton Rouge on Saturday, July 12, to deliver the keynote address at the 8th Annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Excellence Symposium and Celebration. Clark also delivered the keynote address last year at the event, which includes a full day of professional development sessions for educators and culminates with the announcement of the 2015 Louisiana Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year winners. Dream Teachers, a nonprofit organization, annually partners with the Louisiana Department of Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to honor the state's top teachers. Both of the Louisiana winners named at the symposium's awards gala will travel to Washington, D.C., later this year to compete at the national level. Among the 15 semifinalists vying for the principal of...

'Business Report': Local financial advisers offer tips for making college affordable

High school graduation season typically has parents bursting with pride over their children's achievements, but as Business Report details in a feature from the current issue, for many families this is also a time when the financial realities of the future begin to hit home. The cost of a college education at U.S. public, four-year institutions increased 40% during the past decade, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The average cost for four years of higher education today ranges from about $67,000 at public to $135,000 at private institutions. Families with a high net worth and those who have prepared well for the day when a child embarks on a college education can focus during high school graduation on the opportunities that lie ahead. But for parents who delayed planning how they will pay a college tab, the cap and gown can produce anxiety. "The biggest mistake people make in saving for college is not starting early enough," says Jason Windham,...

Legal showdown looks likely over Common Core tests as Jindal, White dig in heels

It appears a legal battle is brewing in Louisiana over the state's participation in the Partnership for Assessments of Readiness for College and Career tests affiliated with the controversial Common Core education standards. Both Gov. Bobby Jindal and Superintendent of Education John White today cited several legal reasons why the state must either pull out of the tests and standards—as Jindal contends—or continue implementing them, as White is pledging to do. After weeks of speculation on what he'd do about the PARCC tests and Common Core standards—which Jindal originally supported before reversing his stance in recent months—the governor called a press conference this afternoon to say he has taken steps to remove Louisiana from its participation in Common Core-affiliated tests. Among them, Jindal has sent a letter to the PARCC organization asking it to...

News alert: Jindal will try to pull La. out of Common Core test

After weeks of speculation, Gov. Bobby Jindal has officially announced that he will use his executive authority to try to pull Louisiana out of tests associated with the Common Core education standards. The governor held a news conference just after 1:10 p.m. today to make the announcement, saying Common Core is a "one-size-fits-all program that simply does not make sense for our state." Jindal, who once supported Common Core but has in recent weeks reversed his stance, equated the standards to an attempted federal takeover of education. Jindal said he sent a letter to the Partnership of Assessments for College and Career Readiness, which is an assessment associated with Common Core, asking the organization to immediately withdraw from Louisiana. Jindal also issued an executive order that instructs the Louisiana Department of Education to begin a competitive process to purchase a new assessment and called on the education department and the Board of Secondary and Elementary Education...

La. education officials working on student privacy changes

The state education board intends to steer up to $1 million to an education department effort to create a new identification system for public school students that doesn't use social security numbers. The Associated Press reports the use of unique student identification numbers is required under a recently passed bill seeking more protections for student data and limits on how the information can be used. A financial committee of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed without objection Tuesday to pay either $1 million or 75% of the total cost for the Louisiana Department of Education to develop the new system, whichever is less. The full board is expected to give final approval today. "This goes to the benefit of every single family and every single student of this state," says BESE President Chas Roemer. "I've never heard a single issue that was so unanimously supported." Parents had pressed for more protections of the information collected on students, raising...

Former La. education chief returning to state, opening consulting firm

Paul Pastorek, who left the Louisiana superintendent of education post in 2011 for a corporate job in Washington, D.C., has stepped down as chief administrative officer of Airbus Group Inc. and plans to work again in education policy. Pastorek tells The Associated Press that he left Airbus effective May 31, adding that he is returning to his hometown of New Orleans and has begun work to establish a company that will advise people working in the education field. As a member of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in the 1990s, Pastorek was an architect of school accountability measures implemented under then-Gov. Mike Foster. Those included high-stakes testing with minimum standards for promotions and graduation, report cards for schools and, later, a protocol for state takeovers of failing schools. He became education superintendent in 2007. Pastorek says he decided to leave Airbus Group, the U.S. subsidiary of the European manufacturer of aircraft and defense...

Editor: What we learned from failed bills to reform EBR schools

Going into the 2014 legislative session, Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel says, it might have seemed that school reform legislation—supported by Rep. Steve Carter, a moderate Republican from south Baton Rouge; Rep. Dalton Honoré, a moderate Democrat from north Baton Rouge; and Sen. Bodi White, a conservative Republican from Central—stood at least a halfway decent shot at passing. "After all, SB 636 and the companion HB 1177 had something for everyone in East Baton Rouge Parish," Riegel writes in her latest column. "Principals would have gotten more power to make budgetary and hiring decisions that supporters said would make for better schools. Students would have gotten better run schools with more qualified teachers, which has been the experience of other school districts that have adopted such measures. Supporters of the St. George movement would have gotten a glimmer of hope that Baton Rouge is finally trying to reform its troubled public schools." But...

Feds say La. improving its use of Race to the Top grant award

Louisiana has made "great progress" in its use of more than $17 million in federal money for improving education in grades K-12, the U.S. Department of Education says in a report released this morning. As The Associated Press reports, The assessment of how Louisiana and other states are using "Race to the Top" grant money notes growth in proficiency in English Language Arts among students in grades three through eight and grade 10, and improvements in math proficiency in grades five and eight. The report highlights support teams formed by Louisiana to help districts implement Common Core academic standards and new teacher evaluation tools. It also outlines areas needing improvement. For instance, it says Louisiana reported that 31% of state schools offered one or more advanced placement courses for 2012-2013, short of its target of 45%. The report says the support teams put in place by the Louisiana Department of Education have served as liaisons between the department and local...

Publisher: EBR school system will never change from within

Shortly after the legislative session ended last week, BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp told Daily Report that since Senate Bill 636—which would have reformed EBR schools by empowering school principals with broader authority—had failed, the only remaining option is reform from within the school system. "While I applaud their effort, I have bad news," says Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister Jr. in his latest column. "Superintendent Bernard Taylor is arguing that they needn't bother, because he is trying to make many of the changes that these outside groups were pushing in the legislation. Beware of false prophets. That will never happen." McCollister says that after 25 years of being involved in education reform, he knows that "policy change benefiting children will never come from within the traditional government-run school system." That's because the system is the problem, McCollister says. "And do you really believe a mediocre monopoly with a...

Educators, business leaders poised for showdown with Jindal on Common Core

Educators and business leaders appear to be gearing up for a showdown with Gov. Bobby Jindal in the wake of public statements the governor has made in recent days saying he wants the state to pull out of the current Common Core standards. In a strongly worded statement issued this morning, the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana (A+PEL)—a nonpartisan, non-union teacher advocacy group—warns that if Jindal tries to remove Common Core in the middle of the summer many teachers will start the school year without a plan or a goal for their teaching. "These calculating politics have to stop," the letter says. "Teachers deserve leadership, not presidential politics." A+PEL Executive Director Keith Courville says his group is not taking a position on Common Core per se, but is urging educators and BESE to insist that the standards not be scrapped in the middle of the summer.

The failure of SB 636

SB 636 and the companion HB 1177 had something for everyone in East Baton Rouge Parish.

College is closer than you think

High school graduation season typically has parents bursting with pride over their children's achievements, but for many families this is also a time when the financial realities of the future begin to hit home.

LSU leads nation in chemistry Ph.D.'s for women, minorities

A new study published in the Journal of Chemical Education identifies LSU as the nation's leading university when it comes to granting doctorate degrees in chemistry to women and underrepresented minority students, LSU announced this morning. The study also highlights LSU's growth in conferring such degrees between 2005 and 2009, pointing to a 49% growth among women and an 11% increase among minorities. "This shows that LSU is not only recruiting students from all populations at both the undergraduate and graduate level, but strives to retain and see those students complete their degree programs," says LSU President F. King Alexander in a prepared statement. The study, "Trends in Ph.D. Productivity and Diversity in Top-50 U.S. Chemistry Departments: An Institutional Analysis," describes trends in chemistry Ph.D.'s granted over the past two decades at universities across the nation. LSU has been the top university in awarding chemistry Ph.D.'s to black students for more than 10...

Southern board to discuss interim chancellor for BR campus

The Southern University Board of Supervisors on Friday will discuss naming an interim chancellor for the flagship campus. The meeting agenda does not list any names of people the board is considering for the interim post, but a system spokesman says the board is expected to discuss at least one candidate and perhaps multiple candidates at the meeting before making an appointment. In two separate meetings in February, a sharply divided board declined to extend the contract of current Chancellor James Llorens. His contract runs out at the end of the month. Also Friday, the board will consider naming an interim band director, hear a summary of Southern's compliance with the state's GRAD Act accountability measures, and discuss "the value of being in the SWAC" for Southern's athletic teams, among other items. —Staff report

Knapp says reform must now come from within EBR school system

What's next for school reform in East Baton Rouge Parish? In the final weeks of the session, the Legislature shot down bills that would have decreased the size of the school board and increased the authority of school principals to make budgetary and hiring decisions. Both measures were crafted with the support of business and civic leaders after months of meetings and planning, and both reforms were heavily promoted by BRAC. "We're going to have conversations over the next few weeks with the supporters of the legislation who we relied on during the planning and preparation before the session," says BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp. "It will take a whole lot of others, too, coming to the table, but what is important to know is that this issue doesn't go away. Our sense of urgency doesn't go away." Knapp says since legislative reform didn't work, the only remaining option is reform within the school system. EBR Superintendent Bernard Taylor has argued he is trying to make many of the...

Lipsey on failed EBR schools bills: 'We're not quitting'

With sine die just a couple of hours away, business leaders in Baton Rouge are nursing wounds from one of the most disappointing losses of the three-month legislative session: the defeat of a bill intended to help reform East Baton Rouge Parish schools by empowering school principals with broader authority. But the 60-31 defeat last Wednesday of Senate Bill 636, which had a racially and politically diverse group of co-sponsors from both chambers, is only a temporary setback, says Richard Lipsey, president of the Committee for Progress, a group of business leaders that lobbied hard for the measure. "We're very disappointed the Legislature didn't support our bill," Lipsey says. "But this is not defeat. We have other programs that we think are as good or better, and we are going to bring them to the school board and to [EBR Superintendent] Bernard Taylor." The Committee for Progress has worked behind the scenes over the past few months, letting BRAC and local Republican Rep.