Content tagged “School”

Court rules La. must report school voucher data

The Department of Justice has prevailed—at least in part—in a long-running and politically charged battle with Louisiana over the state's private school voucher program, Politico reports. Starting this fall, Louisiana must provide the agency with timely information about the racial background of participating students each year so the Justice Department can monitor the program's effect on school segregation, a federal judge ruled Tuesday night. The department could use that information to try to challenge some voucher awards. "We welcome the court's order, as it rejects the state's bid to resist providing even the most basic information about how Louisiana's voucher program will affect school desegregation efforts," was Attorney General Eric Holder's response to the ruling. "This ruling ought to resolve, once and for all, the unnecessary dispute initiated by the state's refusal to provide data." Gov. Bobby Jindal—who has been strenuously resisting the Obama...

Capitol Views: House panel hears bill to replace Common Core

After long public discussion of the pros and cons of Common Core, the House Education Committee spent today hearing a bill to set up a commission to develop the state's own standards and assessments. HB 381 by Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, drew impassioned testimony from backers of the bill and defenders of Common Core. Working with the governor's office, Geymann drew up an amendment that would maintain Common Core standards for the current school year while a new commission considers if alternative standards should be developed and how. The amendment would give final approval of any new standards to BESE, leaving the Legislature with an advisory role. House Education Chairman Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, organized the testimony to allot equal time to the authors and school superintendents who support the bill and to members of BESE and representatives of public interest groups and the business community who oppose it. Still to come today are parents and citizens on both sides.

BESE president blasts backroom dealing on Common Core bill

BESE President Chas Roemer says he's disappointed with school superintendents who have been negotiating behind closed doors with sponsors of a bill that he and others believe is designed to kill Common Core in Louisiana—but he predicts a win at the Capitol tomorrow when the bill is taken up by a House committee. "It's disappointing that they'd do something like this … we've got some adults who are making political deals for their own personal political reasons," Roemer says. Recent emails from Louisiana Association of School Superintendents President Patrice Pujol to her colleagues across the state, obtained by Daily Report, confirm that the association's leaders have been meeting with Reps. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, and J. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, "to influence a bill that we can all support." Geymann and Pope are the authors of House Bill 381,...

Who's afraid of Common Core?

Short of a federal subpoena, nothing gets politicians in a tizzy quicker than seeing the whites of eyes of angry parents, like those descending upon the State Capitol to demand that legislators scrap Common Core, a set of more rigorous education standards being adopted in Louisiana schools and in 44 other states.

Business, civic groups: ‘No political deals’ on Common Core

As the Louisiana Legislature begins considering bills that could roll back the controversial Common Core initiative, a coalition of Common Core backers is urging lawmakers not to make "political deals" that could threaten the new education standards. "There is no need for legislators to make any more 'deals' with unions and associations of school boards, superintendents and narrow political interests who have made it clear through their support of various bills that their true desire is to scrap Common Core altogether; create a new set of standards that say nothing about rigorous content, international benchmarking or expert validation; and create student assessments that will not show us how students, schools or districts perform compared to their peers in other states," reads a statement released today by LABI, the Council for a Better Louisiana and Stand for Children. Other entities that...

Common Core spawning political battles across America

The debate over Common Core is shaping up to be one of the biggest battles of the ongoing legislative session in Baton Rouge, but Louisiana is just one of many states grappling with the political ramifications of the new standards for American schools. As The Associated Press reports in a new feature on the Common Core controversy, it has been more than five years since U.S. governors began a bipartisan effort to set new standards in American schools. Now, the Common Core initiative has morphed into a political tempest fueling division among Republicans. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce leads establishment voices—such as possible presidential contender Jeb Bush—who hail the standards as a way to improve student performance and, over the long term, competitiveness of American workers. Many archconservatives—tea party heroes Rand Paul and Ted Cruz among them—decry the system as a top-down takeover of local schools. The standards were developed and are being...

EBRPSS to open two new middle schools in the fall

Come summertime, East Baton Rouge Parish School System remodeling projects costing $6.25 million will pave the way for two new middle schools to open in the fall of 2014. Brookstown Middle Magnet School will occupy 4375 E. Brookstown Drive, while North Banks Middle School will fill the vacant school building at 5959 Cadillac St. The future Brookstown campus is currently home to The Career Academy—a charter school operated by The Louisiana Resource Center for Educators—and the former location of Brookstown Elementary School, says EBRPSS communications director Keith Bromery. Nancy Roberts, executive director and CEO at LRCE, says that while her group has leases on the career and tech-ed labs housed at Capitol High, the future of The Career Academy is uncertain. “We are hopeful that the state will find a way to help us co-locate at Capitol High, but that has not been decided,” Roberts said. Brookstown's remodel will cost $3.75 million, according to permit...

Dueling fixes

In East Baton Rouge Parish, few issues are as charged as public education. While poor performance—or perceived poor performance—is part of the problem, the education conversation also is about race.

Louisiana needs Common Core

It is said that the more things change, the more they stay the same. That's another way of saying history repeats itself.

St. Joseph's Academy acquires property to expand offices, parking

St. Joseph's Academy purchased a home at 2950 Kleinert Ave.—which is located directly behind the high school's Kleinert parking lot—to renovate into additional administrative offices and parking spaces, says Communications Director Mindy Averitt. The academy acquired the property as Broussard-Acadian Properties LLC for $435,000 on Wednesday, according to records filed with the East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court. Averitt says the home will serve as offices for five members of the finance department, which is currently located in Mother Alice Hall, an academic building also on Kleinert Avenue. Offices in St. Joseph's Hall, an academic building on Broussard Street, will subsequently relocate to Mother Alice Hall, making way for new classroom space in St. Joseph's Hall. "As our student body continues to grow, we need to find classroom space so we can continue to offer the very best in education," Averitt says, noting that St. Joseph's is expecting to increase from 1,044 students...

BESE holds special meeting on $3.5 billion funding plan

BESE is set to decide today on a final proposal for next year's $3.5 billion annual school funding formula. BESE is holding a special meeting today at 1 p.m. so that it can get a recommendation to state lawmakers in time to meet this week's deadline for submission. The board discussed a version of the spending proposal last week, but stalled action amid ongoing conversations with school superintendents and local school board leaders over details of the formula. The financing plan would pay for the operations of 69 public school districts for the 2014-2015 school year. New dollars are expected for technical training and special education. BESE members also support including a $69 million increase that lawmakers approved this year in the permanent formula.

New citizens group says it will aggressively push for EBR school improvements

A new citizens group called The Committee for Progress, led by a group of local businessmen, announced today that it plans to play an active role in shaping the future of the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. Tim Johnson, spokesman for the group, declined to name the businessmen behind the effort, but says they will be actively engaged in raising funds, advertising and recruiting new members through social media platforms. While The Committee for Progress is against the city of St. George incorporation effort, Johnson says, it is in favor of bringing more local control to schools at the neighborhood level. On Friday, BRAC announced it will support legislatively changing the governance structure of the school system to allow for more school control at the local level. Johnson says the group hasn't officially taken a position on the BRAC proposal, nor has it taken a position...

Baker charter school finalizes purchase of Plank Road property

Charter Development Louisiana, an LLC run by Michigan-based National Heritage Academies, purchased an 8.4-acre tract of land at 14740 Plank Road in Baker for $1.25 million on Feb. 26, according to land records filed with the East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court today. The seller in the deal was FR&W Baker LLC, represented by Larry B. Rabin. The property, which lies between Groom Road and Lake Mary Drive and includes a former Wal-Mart, will be the site of Advantage Charter Academy—a free public charter school opening in the fall of 2014. Construction on two thirds of the existing building will begin next week, according to a spokesperson for NHA, while the remaining space will be kept vacant for future expansion. Renovations will include a new HVAC system, a new roof, 28 classrooms, a media lab, a gymnasium, an art room, a music room, an office, and an outdoor play area. Advantage Charter Academy expects to occupy the building by mid-July. According to NHA's website, Advantage...

BESE delays vote on $3.5 billion school funding formula

Apparently acknowledging it will not meet a March 15 deadline to present state lawmakers with a $3.5 billion school funding formula, BESE members today said they need more time to tweak the proposal, The Associated Press reports. BESE indicated it will conduct a special meeting next week to hammer out a final version of the formula that tells the state's 69 public school districts how much state funding they can expect in the 2014-2015 school year. BESE previously announced it intends to recommend spending increases on technical training and special education. Disagreement on details of the spending formula forced the delay. The Associated Press notes lawmakers can give a thumbs up or down to the funding proposal BESE offers, but they cannot change it.

News alert: Knapp says BRAC's EBR schools proposal about 'local control'

BRAC President/CEO Adam Knapp tells Daily Report that BRAC's support of a restructuring of East Baton Rouge Parish School System governance, announced today, is not an endorsement of proposed legislation by Sen. Mack "Bodi" White, R-Central, regarding establishment of a multiple-superintendent school system in East Baton Rouge Parish. Neither is it in support of a proposal recently outlined by EBRP Superintendent Bernard Taylor to create autonomous schools that operate as part of the parishwide school system. "It's different than both," Knapp says. BRAC issued a statement earlier today saying it is working to develop legislation for the session that begins Monday to outline a new governance structure for the EBR system. At the heart of BRAC's proposal, Knapp says, is the desire to increase local control at the school and community level. "And that has to be accomplished through legislation,"...

Components of education reform 'relatively simple,' La. superintendent says

Although education reform is a gradual process that takes time, money and determination, Louisiana Education Superintendent John White told the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge this afternoon that the basic concepts involve things that are "relatively simple to do." The three building blocks, as White sees it, are: early childhood education, high standards and options that lead either to college or to a career path. The Jindal Administration will be pushing all three in the upcoming legislative session, White said—adding he is not anticipating a cakewalk. "There is going to be so much noise, potential name-calling and newspaper articles filled with angst and anxiety," he predicted. "We have to stay strong and be true to our principles." And the guiding principle, he said, is equal educational opportunity that is not dependent on a family's wealth or ZIP code. The state should start with the assumption that "Louisiana kids are just as smart and as capable as any kids in America." If...

Jump Start

While Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White has been barnstorming the state to drum up support for Jump Start—which, if approved by the Legislature this spring, will revamp the way the state provides career and technical training to high school students who may not be interested in or ready for college—the Baton Rouge business community has quietly been doing its part to help get the program enacted and make sure it's a success.

Capital Region business community, delegation taking cautious approach to school sub-district bill

Business leaders and members of the Capital Region's legislative delegation are reacting cautiously to a bill filed late Friday that would create four sub-school districts in East Baton Rouge Parish. The proposed legislation by Sen. Mack "Bodi" White, R-Central, would give sweeping autonomy to deputy superintendents in each district and is intended to help address chronic problems in EBR schools that have led to efforts to incorporate a new city of St. George from unincorporated portions of East Baton Rouge Parish. BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp declines to comment on the bill, saying he has not had time to study the measure. BRAF also declines to comment. Republican Rep. Steve Carter, who heads the Baton Rouge legislative delegation and chairs the House Education Committee, says he, too, needs to know more about the bill before taking a position on it. "But I applaud anybody who is trying to improve the school district," he says. "This may not be the solution … but maybe we...

La. education department proposes 2.75% increase in MFP funding

The Louisiana Department of Education is proposing BESE alter the formula for the 2014-2015 Minimum Foundation Program to increase funding for schools statewide by 2.75%. The department laid out its proposal for the MFP earlier today via a press release, saying it would like to see BESE approve additional state funds for career education courses, state funding for districts to provide early college and other coursework outside of high schools, and an increase in state funding for students whose disabilities require costly services. The proposed increase of approximately $69 million in state funds for the MFP comes with a recommendation that BESE not restrict use of the funds, allowing districts to best accommodate their diverse needs. All of the recommendations made by the department today come from a MFP Task Force commissioned by BESE one year ago, the department says. The state education department has

News alert: White pre-files bill to create four independent school districts in EBR

State Sen. Mack "Bodi" White, R-Central, says he is pre-filing legislation today that would create four independent school districts in East Baton Rouge Parish, one of which would be the southeast district already created by the 2013 Legislature. As envisioned, the districts would remain under the umbrella of EBR Schools but would have their own deputy superintendents empowered to make a broad range of financial, administrative and educational decisions. The measure is intended to help reform a troubled school system and could, potentially, appease supporters of the city of St. George incorporation movement, though White says the bill is not about derailing the effort. "This is not about St. George," White says. "We have to fix education. We're going to get one shot at this in history. This is the time." Read more about this story in Daily Report PM today. —Stephanie Riegel

Investing in the Louisiana Economic Renaissance

Editor's note: This is a guest column provided to Daily Report by the Office of Governor Bobby Jindal.

3 out of 4 La. schools meeting minimum technology standards, state says

Since July of last year, another 108 Louisiana schools and nine school districts have added enough computers, laptops or tablets to meet the state's minimum technology standards, the Louisiana Department of Education announced today. In its latest semi-annual update on its efforts to increase student technology access statewide, the department says there are now 906 schools and 47 districts meeting the minimum standards—which call for at least one computing device for every seven students. Nine school districts in the state are currently meeting a more ambitious goal of providing one computing device for every three students, while three districts have at least one device for every student. "While we still have a ways to go, it's encouraging to see technology no longer thought of as a privilege but a right for our students," says Superintendent John White in a

Common Core backers in La. go on the offensive

Louisiana proponents of Common Core, a set of higher learning standards for each grade, have launched a website to provide what they call "the truth about Common Core." Carrie Griffin Monica, marketing and communications director for Stand for Children, tells Gannett Louisiana that the website was created because "really, there's not a place on the Internet for parents, educators and business leaders to get information. This site is to provide resources and the truth about Common Core." The most common misinterpretations, proponents say, are that it is a national curriculum and that the federal government is using it as a tool to take over local schools. Instead, it was developed by the National Governor's Association with input from education experts and states, they argue. Several legislators are proposing bills to take Louisiana out of Common Core and to develop Louisiana standards. State Superintendent of Education John White has pointed out that Louisiana standards are now in...

La. gets B for teacher effectiveness policies

The National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that advocates for tougher teacher evaluations, has given Louisiana the second-highest overall grade among all states—a B—in its latest report on each state's policies on teacher effectiveness, released today. Only Florida got a better overall grade than Louisiana, with a B+. Tennessee and Rhode Island also received overall B grades. The overall grades are compiled from the results of each state's performance over five specific grading areas, the metrics for which are based on a set of more than 30 policy goals established by the NCTQ. Louisiana received its best grade, an A-, in the Identifying Effective Teachers category. It also received the following category grades: Delivering Well Prepared Teachers, C-; Expanding the Pool of Teachers, C+; Retaining Effective Teachers, B+; Exiting Ineffective Teachers, C. The NCTQ releases its report every other year. In the report published in 2012,...

La. leads U.S. for low-income fourth graders not reading proficiently, study says

In nearly every state, fourth graders from low-income families are less likely to be reading proficiently than those from higher-income families, and Louisiana is no different. And according to a new Kids Count data snapshot by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, low-income students across the nation are increasingly falling behind their higher-income peers. In Louisiana, for example, 85% of low-income fourth graders are not reading proficiently, compared to 58% of high-income students, the report says. Both figures are higher than the average among all U.S. fourth graders, among which 80% of low-income students are not reading proficiently and 49% of higher-income are not. As The Washington Post reports, Louisiana's 85% rate of low-income students who are not proficient in reading is tied for the highest in the nation with Arizona, Alaska, California, Mississippi and New Mexico. The fourth-grade benchmark is a significant one, the report finds, as it marks a shift when reading...

Potential donors hear pitch for innovative private scholarship program

Industry leaders, private fund managers and wealthy individuals got their first glimpse today of an innovative private scholarship program that is preparing a statewide rollout in Louisiana. Georgia-based Arete Scholars Fund met potential donors at a private luncheon at Juban's to unveil a program for underprivileged children that even proponents acknowledge sounds too good to be true. Executive Director Derek Monjure said that recent legislation approved in Louisiana makes it possible for anyone or any organization to make a donation into the Arete Scholars Fund and then, at the end of the next school year, get a rebate check from the State of Louisiana for 95% of the donated amount. The remaining 5% is available as a deduction off of state and federal income taxes. The amount made available as scholarships is limited to 80% of what the state would otherwise have paid in Minimum Foundation Program funds, so the money for the rebates is available from what the state didn't pay to...

Faces of Old South

A Day of Service event Monday at Expressway Park helped introduce Baton Rougeans to a neighborhood project that partners residents of Old South Baton Rouge with the Arts Council, Center for Planning Excellence, BREC and others.

BESE member Walter Lee indicted on four counts

A member of the state education board once up for a national superintendent of the year award has been indicted on two counts of felony theft and one count each of public contract fraud and malfeasance in office. The Shreveport Times reports a DeSoto Parish grand jury, meeting in special session today, returned the four true bills against Walter C. Lee, of Shreveport, shortly before noon after meeting less than an hour. Arrest warrants are being prepared. No prior arrangements have been made for Lee to surrender to authorities, says District Attorney Richard Johnson, who noted the charges are "particularly disturbing because they concern public corruption." The charges stem from allegations outlined last month in a report by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor's office. The information is in line with an investigation by The Times early last year on Lee's spending and financial decision-making over the last three years of his contracted employment with the DeSoto Parish...

Shirley: School choice empowers parents, demands results

"As we start another year, I challenge the parents and community leaders of this state to unite to overcome the obstacles that remain in the path of our children having access to the best possible public schools," says Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools Executive Director Caroline Roemer Shirley to open a new Daily Report guest column. "School choice options continue to expand across the state. There are traditional schools, charter schools that are completely 'virtual,' public military academies, language-immersion charters." In Louisiana, Shirley says nearly 60,000 students now attend one of 117 public charter schools across 19 parishes. "We have one of the strongest public charter school laws in the country, rated 6th best by the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools," she says. Meanwhile, she says another 118 private schools now offer "scholarships" to low-income families across Louisiana, giving families a completely new choice about where to send their...

School choice empowers parents, demands results

Editor's note: This is a guest column provided to Daily Report by Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools. Caroline Roemer Shirley is the Executive Director.

State to audit EBR schools due to complaints about graduation records

Louisiana Department of Education Superintendent John White sent a letter to East Baton Rouge Parish Schools Superintendent Bernard Taylor today informing him that the state will audit school records due to "recently received detailed complaints of discrepancies among student graduation records" in the system. In interviews with several local media outlets, Taylor has said that to his knowledge the issue surrounds just one student's record, and that he welcomes a review of the system's records. The audit will include all "relevant records" from the system dating back to 2010, according to White's letter. Taylor took over as superintendent in July 2012. "The audit will necessitate that all relevant electronic and hard copy records be made available to Department [of Education] staff," reads White's letter. "It will also be necessary that East Baton Rouge Parish school and district administrators make themselves available for discussions with Department staff, as requested." Both White...

Ruling against teacher tenure law to be appealed to La. Supreme Court again

Gov. Bobby Jindal says his administration will once again appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court a ruling by a Baton Rouge judge against its revamp of teacher tenure and salary laws. State District Judge Michael Caldwell today ruled that the new laws, approved as Act 1 of the 2012 legislative session, are unconstitutional. It was the same ruling Caldwell issued in March last year, when he said the legislation was unconstitutional because it bundled together too many items spanning Louisiana's education laws. But the Louisiana Supreme Court vacated Caldwell's decision in May and asked him to re-evaluate his ruling. Caldwell heard arguments in December, and came to the same conclusion today. "We believe it is constitutional and we are going to appeal to the Supreme Court," Jindal says in a prepared statement released shortly after the ruling was handed down this afternoon, adding, "The...

Ruling to be issued on Jindal's teacher tenure law

A Baton Rouge judge is set to announce today whether he'll throw out his prior ruling declaring Gov. Bobby Jindal's revamp of teacher tenure and salary laws unconstitutional. The Associated Press reports Judge Michael Caldwell is expected to issue a ruling at an 11 a.m. hearing in Baton Rouge. Caldwell ruled in March that the legislation was unconstitutional because it bundled together too many items spanning Louisiana's education laws. But the Louisiana Supreme Court vacated Caldwell's decision in May and asked him to re-evaluate his ruling. Caldwell heard new arguments in December. The Louisiana Supreme Court says its opinion in a separate education case involving Jindal's statewide voucher program contains new case law for Caldwell to review. In that case, the high court rejected a similar argument that the voucher bill contained too many objectives. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers filed the lawsuit challenging the 2012 legislation.

Judge to issue new ruling on challenge of teacher tenure law next month

Baton Rouge judge who is reconsidering his decision to throw out Gov. Bobby Jindal's revamp of teacher tenure and salary laws said Friday that he'll issue his new ruling in January. Judge Michael Caldwell ruled in March that the legislation was unconstitutional because it bundled together too many items spanning Louisiana's education laws. But the Louisiana Supreme Court vacated Caldwell's decision in May and asked him to re-evaluate his ruling. Caldwell heard new arguments today and said he will release his decision Jan. 8. The Supreme Court said its opinion in a separate education case involving Jindal's statewide voucher program contains new case law for Caldwell to review. In that case, the high court rejected a similar argument that the voucher bill contained too many objectives. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers filed the lawsuit challenging the 2012 legislation, known as Act 1. The law limited local school boards' authority over hiring and firing decisions, made it harder...

Task force supports revising Louisiana's MFP school funding formula

A task force comprised of business leaders and school superintendents formed earlier this year to consider revisions to Louisiana's Minimum Foundation Program formula for the 2014-15 school year has announced it is supporting a set of revisions proposed by Jay Gulliot, a BESE member and chair of the task force. The MFP is the mechanism by which school funding needs are assessed and the state’s contribution per student to school funding is determined. In particular, the task force supports making changes to the MFP formula to give greater priority to career and technical training in high schools, as well as to increased public-private partnerships. A press release issued Thursday evening by LABI—whose president Stephen Waguespack sits on the task force—says the task force supports language in the proposed MFP revisions that is "consistent with past subsidies provided by the state directly to [local education agencies] for courses taken beyond what schools are...

Judge revisiting challenge of La. teacher tenure law

A Baton Rouge judge is today reconsidering his decision to throw out Gov. Bobby Jindal's revamp of teacher tenure and salary laws. The Associated Press reports Judge Michael Caldwell is set to begin a hearing at 9:30 this morning on the issue. He had previously ruled that the legislation was unconstitutional because it bundled together too many items spanning Louisiana's education laws. But the Louisiana Supreme Court vacated Caldwell's decision and asked him to re-evaluate his ruling. The Supreme Court said its opinion in a separate education case involving Jindal's statewide voucher program contains new case law for Caldwell to review. In that case, the high court rejected a similar argument that the voucher bill contained too many objectives. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers filed the lawsuit challenging the 2012 law, which limited local school boards' authority, made it harder for teachers to reach tenure and eliminated statewide teacher pay scales.

St. George battle long in the making

There is a lot of debate, anger and finger-pointing regarding the proposal to create a new City of St. George. There are studies being commissioned and secret meetings to figure out the impact and how to stop the movement. But the breakaway effort is not the problem or the cause of the problem—it is just a symptom and inevitable reaction to a larger problem this community and its elected officials have failed to address for decades: poor schools.

Students in Asian nations dominate global exam results

American students once again lag behind many of their Asian and European peers on a global exam, a continuing trend that often is blamed on child poverty and a diverse population in U.S. schools. Education Secretary Arne Duncan calls the results a "picture of educational stagnation," as U.S. students showed little improvement over three years, failing to score in the top 20 on math, reading or science. Students in Shanghai, China's largest city, had the top scores in all subjects, and Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong students weren't far behind. Even Vietnam, which had its students participate for the first time, had a higher average score in math and science than the United States. These results again raise the question of whether the United States is consistently outperformed because of the widely varied backgrounds of its students. Some are from low-income households, for example. Others don't have English as their primary language. But some countries that outperform...

BESE backs two-year delay on Common Core implementation

Louisiana's state school board has backed a two-year delay for some consequences tied to the phase-in of more rigorous educational standards, called Common Core, at public schools. BESE members today overwhelmingly supported the changes pushed by Superintendent of Education John White. The plan will raise accountability standards—like the grading of students, schools and teachers—to match the Common Core in 2015, with a slow adjustment to toughen school grades set to phase in through 2025. The Common Core standards are grade-level benchmarks adopted by most states for what students should learn in reading, writing and math. A BESE committee with all members present and voting supported White's plan, The Associated Press reports, noting the board will formally take a final vote on the matter Wednesday.

BESE to vote today on changes to Common Core implementation

Louisiana's state school board is today considering a two-year delay for some consequences tied to the phase-in of more rigorous educational standards, called Common Core, at public schools. BESE will discuss and vote on changes proposed by Education Superintendent John White. As The Associated Press reports, White is suggesting that the raising of accountability standards—like grading of students, schools and teachers—to match Common Core shouldn't start until 2015, with a slow adjustment to toughen the school grades set to phase in through 2025. The Common Core standards are a tougher set of grade-level benchmarks adopted by most states for what students should learn in reading, writing and math. White's recommendations are designed to lessen criticism of the standards by lawmakers, parents and teachers' unions. Forty-five states have adopted Common Core. BESE agreed to use the standards in Louisiana three years ago, and they are being phased into public school...

Jindal touts education reform, bashes Obama in Indiana

Addressing more than 800 Republicans in Indianapolis Monday night, Gov. Bobby Jindal focused for the most part on what Louisiana and Indiana have in common regarding education reform efforts, The Indianapolis Star reports. At the same time, Jindal also took the opportunity to harshly criticize the Obama administration for policies and actions that run counter to Jindal's vision of the American dream. "When I hear [the president] talk about our redistributionist government, when I hear him talking about more government taxes, more government spending, more government borrowing, when I hear him talk about government being more and more involved in our lives, tell us how to live our lives and what kind of health care we should have," Jindal said, "it sounds like he wants to manage the slow decline of this once great economy and subdivide that shrinking economic pie smaller and smaller so we become more and more like Europe." Jindal was the keynote speaker at the Indiana...

Land deals for Walker High expansion expected to close soon

The Livingston Parish School Board says it expects a pair of land deals it has secured in recent weeks for the expansion of Walker High School to close within the next month. The most recent deal, approved by the board on Thursday, is for a 1.69-acre trailer park adjacent to the high school at 12646 Burgess Ave. School board member Jimmy Watson says the board will pay $630,000 for the land, using funds that have accumulated in the Walker School District fund. Watson says all of the trailer park occupants will have 60 days to vacate the property after the deal closes. The property is located south of the campus and fronts U.S. 190. Another land deal approved by the board last month is for 2.25 acres of land bordering school property on the east and facing Palmetto Street. The board is paying $346,000 for that tract. Watson says one home is located on that property, adding it will be vacated within 90 days of the closing, at which point the school system will seek to sell and move the...

White suggests slowing down impact of Common Core

John White, Louisiana's education superintendent, today proposed a two-year delay for the consequences from toughened educational standards on school grades, teacher evaluations and student promotion in public schools. White outlined recommendations for how he'd like to roll out the statewide shift to the Common Core standards, a more rigorous set of grade-level benchmarks adopted by most states for what students should learn in reading, writing and math. He is suggesting the raising of accountability standards—like grading of students, schools and teachers—to match the Common Core shouldn't start until 2015, with a slow adjustment to toughen the school grades set to phase in through 2025. White's proposal will be considered by BESE next month. His recommendations are designed to lessen criticism of the state's use of the Common Core by lawmakers, parents and teachers unions. "If we want Louisiana jobs to go to Louisiana graduates, we have to raise expectations for...

New Baton Rouge charter school expanding to add more classrooms

Louisiana Key Academy may have just opened its doors in August, but the charter school for dyslexic students already expects to complete a 5,500-square-foot expansion by April, just in time to recruit prospective third graders, says principal Evelyn Gauthreaux. The charter school leases about 16,000 square feet in the Westmoreland Shopping Center at 3172 Government St., but it currently only occupies about 11,000 square feet of the space. The renovation of the rest of the space, projected to cost around $600,000, will add six new classrooms, two small multipurpose rooms and additional restrooms, making room for third graders in fall 2014 and fourth graders in fall 2015. The school, which currently accommodates 125 kindergarteners, first graders and second graders, plans to grow by a grade level a year until it encompasses K-fifth grades. "We're actually hoping that we'll have to add some more space to get fifth grade," Gauthreaux says. The new school is filling a need in the area for...

Louisiana superintendent may modify Common Core rollout

Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White appears to be reconsidering several of the cornerstones of Louisiana's recently ramped-up accountability system, including teacher and principal evaluations. But for now, The News-Star of Monroe reports, he's tightly controlling the final details. White has toured the state over the past few months listening to education stakeholders speak about what's right and what's wrong with the state's transition to the Common Core State Standards and the more rigorous teacher and principal evaluations. On Monday, he took his conversation to the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, gave members a preview of things likely to come later this week, and then asked them not to talk with the media about what was discussed. "He asked us to keep it tight-lipped," West Carroll Parish Superintendent Kent Davis tells The News-Star. Says White: "I asked them not to communicate that this is the sum total of the policy. We're taking...

Education leaders push for business partnerships with K-12 schools

Leaders in K-12 education urged businesses to partner with schools to prepare students for Louisiana's massive industrial expansion during a panel discussion today at an "Excellence in Education" event hosted by Leadership Greater Baton Rouge Alumni. "We have as a state for a long time not focused appropriately on technical education," said Patrice Pujol, superintendent of the Ascension Parish School System. Central Community School System Superintendent Michael Faulk echoed that sentiment, suggesting that schools should start educating students and parents early on about the valuable careers and high wages that can be obtained by attending a two-year technical school or vocational program over a four-year college. One step Faulk says the Central school system has taken in that direction has been the development of a plank-welding program, whereby students gain certification and can come out of high school earning $30 an hour. In contrast, THRIVE Charter School founder Sarah Broome...

Officials protest charter decisions

Several elected officials and their supporters gathered today at Capitol High School to protest what they described as secretive decisions announced last week by the state's Recovery School District. Those decisions include closing Istrouma High for at least a year and bringing in what they describe as unproven out-of-state charter operators to run local schools. BESE member Carolyn Hill says charter schools overseen by the RSD receive preferential treatment in the distribution of grant funds over traditional schools and charters overseen by local school boards. "We're not against charters," Hill says. "It's about an ethical playing field." Hill questioned why out-of-state charter operators were chosen over J.K. Haynes, which already operates a Baton Rouge elementary school and has a "rapport with the community." Other officials at today's press conference included Ted James, Pat Smith, Regina Barrow and Alfred Williams, all Democratic state representatives from Baton Rouge, Metro...

Breaking away

In the past year and a half, Baton Rouge has seen efforts to create a breakaway chamber of commerce, a breakaway school district and a breakaway city. Now, a conservative nonprofit has been created, reportedly, to challenge the one organization that is trying to bring Baton Rouge together.

La. teacher survey shows lack of faith in leadership development

The Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana says new survey results it released today show the majority of teachers in the state feel their school systems are facing a "significant leadership gap." The group, which describes itself as a professional teachers organization and is also known as A+PEL, notes "a strong majority of teachers" who took the survey gave their current principals good marks for being effective leaders. However, it also says well over half of teachers surveyed said either their local school systems did not have formal processes to identify, recruit or develop potential school leaders or they were not aware of them. "For those teachers aware of such programs, few judged them to be of high quality," A+PEL says in a news release. "Teachers also said that local districts lacked any meaningful incentives for good candidates to become principals. These results suggest that local districts do a poor job of identifying potentially strong candidates and there is a...

La. teachers say not enough support from state on Common Core

Despite an agreement the state had with the federal government to provide a new state-developed curriculum aligned with the Common Core standards, local districts have been left responsible for creating their own curricula, reports The News-Star of Monroe. In an April 2012 request to waive the requirements imposed on the state's education system by the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Louisiana said they would provide a "new state-developed curriculum aligned with the CCSS (Common Core state standards)." Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White says a "better plan" was to "recommend a curriculum" currently being implemented in New York's public schools but created by LSU. "We're going to do what's best for Louisiana," he says. "It's not a matter of what the federal government has on a piece of paper." But Louisiana School Board Association Executive Director Scott Richard says once the state Department of Education had permission from the federal...

Percentage of La. schools graded A or B at record high

State education officials say a record 43% of Louisiana's public schools received an A or B grade under newly released school accountability ratings. The percentage of failing schools dropped from 12% to 8%. The 2013 figures rating schools and school districts, released today, are the first under a revamped grading system that education officials hope will be easier for parents to follow. The new system also aims to put more emphasis on development of skills students will use after graduation—in college or career training. Among the changes, the scores factor in students' performance on the ACT college preparation test—which all high school students are now required to take. The Zachary Community District earned the highest district score: 136 out of 150. Access all of the new Louisiana school and district grades.

La. about average in international test comparison

A new report comparing eighth-graders in the United States with 38 other countries shows that Louisiana students scored slightly above the international average in science and on par with the average in math. The study, released this morning by the U.S. Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics, shows most states performed above the international average in both subjects. Researchers took eighth-grade test results from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress to predict performance on an international comparative study test. Among states, Louisiana students' average scores in the math and science testing were slightly below average. The scores were ranked on a scale of 1,000. The Associated Press reports Louisiana's average score in science was 514, compared to 522 nationally. The state's average math score was 500, compared to the national average of 507. The New York Times has

Feds oppose parents' intervention in voucher case, Jindal fires back

The U.S. Justice Department says parents of Louisiana students attending private schools with taxpayer-funded tuition vouchers should not be allowed to intervene in a legal case linking the voucher issue to desegregation orders. The department filed a federal court motion in September claiming new vouchers should not be issued in school districts under longstanding federal desegregation orders unless approved by a judge. Parents and an organization supporting vouchers recently sought to intervene in the case. Justice lawyers said Tuesday that the parents have no cause to intervene because the motion doesn't threaten existing vouchers, and because the motion doesn't seek to end the voucher program—only to make sure it complies with desegregation orders. Gov. Bobby Jindal, a voucher proponent, accused Justice lawyers Wednesday of trying to "muzzle" parents. "The Obama Administration wants to deny a voice to the very people who will be harmed by this ridiculous lawsuit. In an...

Sacred Heart of Jesus buys adjacent Mid City building

Sacred Heart of Jesus has purchased a building neighboring the Mid City Catholic school at 2279 Main St. with hopes of one day building an early learning center on site. Father Miles Walsh says the early learning center is just "one of the many goals the school is hoping to achieve," adding, "We believe it is smart growth for Baton Rouge." A purchase price on the roughly 5,000-square-foot building, which is currently vacant and was once home to Lancorp Inc., was not disclosed. There's no firm timeline for development of the early learning center, but the school is planning to demolish the former Lancorp building at some point to make room for it. Sacred Heart Parish Administrative Assistant Tiffany Dykes says the building won't be torn down until the plan for the early learning center is more complete, adding the parish hopes to make additional purchases in the future to further expand. “Our goal is to purchase more property in our immediate surroundings for continued...

La. voucher program grows by 1,800 students this year

Lawsuits, funding concerns and questions about quality haven't stopped the growth of Gov. Bobby Jindal's voucher program. The program added more than 1,800 students this year, according to the first official tally for the current 2013-14 school year released today. The state Department of Education says 6,751 students are enrolled in 126 private schools across the state with taxpayer dollars. Another 24 students have switched to a high-performing public school through the voucher program, for a total of 6,775 enrollments. That's a 37% increase, up from 4,944 students using vouchers at the same point last year, the first year of the statewide program. "We feel good about the program. We do expect it to continue to increase year after year," says education department spokesman Barry Landry. Taxpayer-financed tuition through Louisiana's voucher program, called the Louisiana Scholarship Program, is available to students from low- to moderate-income families who otherwise would attend...

Taking work for a test drive

While having a college degree may be your ticket to an interview after graduation, your experiential education is what will actually help you land a job.

Learning takes flight

What's new in the world of unique classes and degree programs at Louisiana colleges and universities this year?

Cookin' up a winner

The Vermilion Parish team of Paige Patout, Katherine Trahan and Austin Gaspard won the 4-H edition of the Great American Seafood Cook-Off contest in August.

Begin with the end

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. ... Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
—STEVE JOBS

BESE tweaks regulations for Common Core standards

Louisiana's top school board made modest tweaks today to its regulations governing the state's shift to tougher testing and educational standards, a response to critics who wanted the standards scrapped altogether. The Associated Press reports BESE voted 8-1 to adjust its rules for use of the Common Core, a day after hearing five hours of emotional testimony from supporters and critics of the standards."We have attempted to do something ... to say, 'We heard you,' " says board member Connie Bradford, who recommended the changes. She says the regulation adjustments give people "the opportunity to feel more confidence, to build more trust. We're just giving them validation for their concerns. This is not the end of where we need to go." Despite the changes, the board held firm to its support for Common Core, which supporters say will improve the level of rigor in public school classrooms and better prepare students for college or careers. Common Core is a set of grade-by-grade...

Caldwell says he can't stop lawyers' potential payday for school lawsuit

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell says he can't stop a contractual arrangement that allows lawyers for a local school board and a teachers union to receive up to $20 million if successful in a lawsuit challenging the state's public school funding formula. The attorney general's office was meeting today with the lawyers hired by the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board, according to Caldwell spokesman Steven Hartmann. But Hartmann says the attorney general only reviews the school board's resolution selecting the law firm to make sure it complies with Louisiana law. In a statement, Caldwell says he doesn't approve or reject the fee arrangement that the board struck allowing the attorneys to take 10% of any amount awarded, called a contingency fee. "We have absolutely no legal authority whatsoever to disapprove the use of contingency fee contracts by political subdivisions of the state. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar," Caldwell says in a statement to The Associated Press. The...

10 Questions: Common Core

A set of tougher grade-level expectations for math and reading being rolled out this year by public and Catholic schools in Louisiana; 44 other states and the District of Columbia also voluntarily adopted the standards. Common Core standards in science have not yet been implemented in Louisiana.

Lawyers could cash in on education lawsuit

Lawyers for a Louisiana school board and a state teachers union could get a windfall of up to $20 million if successful in their lawsuit claiming the state's school funding formulas were not properly approved for three years, The Associated Press reports. The lawsuit seeks $200 million more in school funding than the state is providing. Under its contract with attorneys, the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board could pay its lawyers up to 10% of an award in the case as a contingency fee. Charles Patin, a lawyer with Kean Miller LLP who is working for the board, says the deal was structured with a percentage payout because the board didn’t have cash for an upfront payment. Also listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Louisiana Association of Educators and dozens of their local affiliates. Trial is set for Jan. 10. It's unclear whether the payment rate will stand, however. A judge isn't bound by the contractual arrangement if the lawsuit is given class action status. The...

LaPolitics: Common Core controversy lands on BESE agenda

The controversy over Common Core has reached the responsible party. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will hold hearings on the new guidelines for instruction and testing at its Oct. 15-16 meetings. "It will be on the agenda and I suspect people will show up and talk about it," BESE President Chas Roemer tells LaPolitics. On Saturday, about 200 parents and children demonstrated at the Department of Education building against the new teaching methods and standards that opponents, including Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, have labeled as a "federalized curriculum." He has publicly asked the governor to instruct BESE to have the state withdraw from Common Core. Roemer and Education Superintendent John White have challenged those assertions, stating that there are no federal controls and that local school districts are in charge of implementing the new teaching models over this school year and next. Gov. Bobby Jindal has said that he favors more rigor and higher...

Study says La. voucher program aids desegregation efforts

Reaching a conclusion that runs counter to allegations made by the U.S. Department of Justice in a lawsuit it recently filed against Louisiana over the state's voucher program, a new study says the voucher program aids desegregation efforts. "The evidence suggests that use of private school vouchers by low-income students actually has positive effects on racial integration," reads an overview of the study by Education Next, a quarterly publication produced by Harvard and Stanford universities. "Among the subset of students for whom data are available, we find that transfers made possible by the school-choice program overwhelmingly improve integration in the public schools that students leave (the sending schools), bringing the racial composition of the schools closer to that of the broader communities in which they are located." Gov. Bobby Jindal is demanding the DOJ drop the lawsuit, which says the voucher program runs up against decades-old desegregation efforts. Louisiana...

Opponents of City of St. George set public meeting

A group that has previously fought the creation of a new school district in southeast East Baton Rouge Parish has slated a public meeting to begin taking on the effort to incorporate a new City of St. George—the first step in a new strategy to create the breakaway school district. One Community, One School District says it will hold the meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10, at the Bluebonnet branch library, 9200 Bluebonnet Blvd. "Representatives of OCOSD will discuss how the proposed incorporation of the City of St. George will affect taxes and access to public education," says the group in an announcement for the meeting. The move comes as those behind the push for a new school district have begun ramping up their efforts. The group recently established a website and began collecting signatures on a petition to get the incorporation issue on the ballot. According to...

The proposed city of St. George

The effort to incorporate the city of St. George was born from the effort to create a local independent school district in the southeastern region of East Baton Rouge Parish.

Voucher lawsuit: A gift from Obama

Gov. Bobby Jindal may call the lawsuit brought by President Barack Obama's administration against the state's voucher program "cynical, immoral, hypocritical and more," but he's got to love the big guy for it. Had the U.S. Justice Department not intervened, Jindal's already-embattled scholarship program may have shriveled and faded in years to come, under funding pressure from the Legislature and legal challenges from school boards and teacher unions.

First look at new Lee High School coming tonight

Detailed plans for the new Lee High School, including renderings, will be unveiled by the East Baton Rouge Parish School System at a community meeting this evening. Demolition on the former Lee High began earlier this summer, and the new $58.5 million campus is expected to be ready for the 2015-16 school year. When it opens, the new two-story school will also have a new curriculum. It will be called Lee High School STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and Visual and Performing Arts Magnet Academy. Officials from the school system and Grace & Hebert Architects—the Baton Rouge-based firm that it selected to design the new Lee High School—will be on hand at tonight's meeting, which begins at 6:30 in the gymnasium of Valley Park Alternative High School, 4510 Bawell St. Grace & Hebert Architects has previously said the school will be designed to accommodate 1,200 students and "incorporate...

BRAC lends support to Common Core

BRAC today joined the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the Council for a Better Louisiana and a plethora of national companies and business leaders in voicing support for Common Core, which BRAC defines as "tougher academic standards for math and reading" that "have been voluntarily adopted by 45 states, including Louisiana." "We encourage state and local leaders to continue to maintain local flexibility and control of curriculum, and to provide schools and teachers all the resources necessary for a careful, smooth, and successful implementation of these rigorous new standards,"

Jindal says state no nearer to resolution with Justice Department on vouchers

While the U.S. Department of Justice is touting "a significant breakthrough" with Louisiana regarding its lawsuit against the state over a new voucher program, Gov. Bobby Jindal says the department's claims amount to a "PR stunt." "Louisiana agreed to provide information on the voucher program that the department had originally requested in May 2013 and that the state had, up until now, largely withheld," the Justice Department says in a letter sent to House Speaker John Boehner. In August, the department sued Louisiana to stop the state from distributing school vouchers in any district that remains under a desegregation court order. "The administration claims the state is suddenly providing information, when in reality, the information the federal government is seeking does not even exist yet. And they know it," Jindal says in

State superintendent mulling application for $45 million in federal early education funds

Gov. Bobby Jindal is being urged to apply for $45 million in federal grant money available to Louisiana for early childhood education programs, but with an Oct. 16 deadline approaching, it's unclear if the state will turn in a request or pass up the chance to get the funding. Several groups, including early childhood education revamp advocate Education's Next Horizon, are asking Jindal and Superintendent of Education John White to apply for the money. They say it would help the education department with its ongoing efforts to strengthen early childhood education programs around the state. "We think the state could be competitive," Education's Next Horizon CEO John Warner Smith tells The Associated Press. Jindal's office says the governor is leaving the decision to White's department, and education department spokeswoman Anna Gatlin says that White hadn't yet decided whether to apply. "We will not apply for any funding that comes with strings attached or brings more federal...

Voucher suit is gift to Jindal from Obama

Gov. Bobby Jindal may call the lawsuit brought by President Barack Obama's administration against the state's voucher program "cynical, immoral, hypocritical and more," but he's got to love the big guy for it. Had the U.S. Justice Department not intervened, Jindal's already-embattled scholarship program may have shriveled and faded in years to come, under funding pressure from the Legislature and legal challenges from school boards and teacher unions. Instead, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder snatched it from oblivion with the high-profile lawsuit that the governor is turning into a higher-profile political issue.

Maginnis: Voucher suit is gift to Jindal from Obama

Gov. Bobby Jindal may call the lawsuit brought by President Barack Obama's administration against the state's voucher program "cynical, immoral, hypocritical and more," but columnist John Maginnis says Jindal's "got to love the big guy for it." Had the U.S. Justice Department not intervened, Maginnis writes, "Jindal's already-embattled scholarship program may have shriveled and faded in years to come, under funding pressure from the Legislature and legal challenges from school boards and teacher unions. Instead, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder snatched it from oblivion with the high-profile lawsuit that the governor is turning into a higher-profile political issue." The governor recently put his feud with the feds in the national spotlight by delivering a speech to the National Press Club mere blocks away from the Justice Department, penning an op-ed piece in the Washington Post and enlisting the public support from Speaker of the House John Boehner and former Florida Gov.

Louisiana school voucher dispute may be ending

A court battle with Louisiana over the state's school voucher program may be nearing an end, the Justice Department announced this morning. In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, the department says Louisiana has agreed to provide information to the federal government on the program. The Obama administration says the voucher initiative has hurt desegregation efforts. According to the federal government, Louisiana had refused to provide data about the students who were benefiting from the voucher program and an analysis of how the program changed the racial composition of the affected schools. On Friday, the U.S. District Court in New Orleans ordered Louisiana to undertake an analysis of the voucher program and provide it to the federal government by Nov. 7. "This represents a significant breakthrough," the Justice Department says in its letter to Boehner. "Louisiana agreed to provide information on the voucher program that the department had originally requested in May 2013 and...

Jindal says 'local control is best' for schools

Gov. Bobby Jindal says a TV ad campaign that begins airing statewide today, in which he defends Louisiana's school voucher program, is designed to take his case against federal intervention in the program directly to the people. "I don't think the federal government should be running our schools," Jindal tells Daily Report. "That is why we are fighting so hard this Justice Department intervention against our scholarship program. Parents know their children's needs best. Let parents decide." Jindal is spending some $500,000 of his own campaign funds on the TV spots, which ask viewers to log on to a website and sign a petition protesting the federal government's efforts to halt the popular voucher program. The program was one of the hallmarks of Jindal's 2012 education reform package and has enabled some 8,000 students from failing public schools to attend private schools. The Justice Department is trying to temporarily cease the program, contending it conflicts with a federal...

Breakaway school district supporters further effort to incorporate new city

Twice stymied by the Legislature, those behind the push for a new school district in the southeast region of East Baton Rouge Parish are stepping up their efforts to incorporate a new city called St. George as a way to get the new school system. “The residents of St. George have long been the backbone of East Baton Rouge Parish's economy and have been leaders in its commerce, industry, education and culture,” reads a portion of the new website, which features a proposed map of the new city and a petition to get incorporation on the ballot, among other things. “This has led to a situation in which St. George's taxpayers provide two-thirds of the revenue to the East Baton Rouge Parish government with only one-third of that government's expense in return. Incorporating a city would reverse this unjust circumstance to an extent, and provide the fuel for a renaissance in East Baton Rouge Parish.” Key...

House GOP chiefs urge end to La. voucher challenge

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican congressional leaders are urging the Justice Department to consider ending its move to block Louisiana from issuing new private school tuition vouchers in districts that remain under federal desegregation orders. The Associated Press reports a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder today is signed by Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and four other House GOP leaders. It says the department's move could force students to stay in failing public schools and pressure other states to abandon similar initiatives. Justice officials say vouchers have impeded integration in some districts under desegregation orders. The department wants new vouchers blocked in such districts unless and until they are approved by a federal court. The voucher program provides state-funded private school tuition for some students assigned to low-performing public schools.

THRIVE charter school looking to build new campus on Brightside

THRIVE Baton Rouge, a charter boarding school that serves at-risk students from East Baton Rouge Parish, has filed plans with the Planning Commission to develop a new campus at 2585 Brightside Drive that will include classroom buildings, dormitories and athletic facilities. THRIVE founder and Executive Director Sarah Broome says the school has signed a purchase agreement for $1.2 million to acquire the 7.4-acre site, which is owned by the Diocese of Baton Rouge, and is in the middle of a capital campaign to finance the land acquisition. "We are hopeful about completing the funding, we're just not quite there yet," says Broome, who confirms she received a $400,000 commitment earlier today from the Charles Lamar Family Foundation to support the project. Broome, 27, came to Baton Rouge in 2008 with Teach for America and founded THRIVE in 2011. Now in its second year, the school is currently housed...

Taylor: EBR becoming a top 10 La. district by 2020 'a realistic goal'

Bernard Taylor, superintendent of East Baton Rouge Parish public schools, today laid out some of the priorities and goals included in the 2013 Strategic Plan, which will begin being implemented in the next 30 days. Perhaps the most ambitious goal for EBR schools in the plan: becoming one of the state's top 10 districts by 2020. "This is not pie-in-the-sky optimism, but I think this is a realistic goal," says Taylor, who was guest speaker of the Baton Rouge Press Club today. The strategic plan prioritizes universal access to preschool, irrespective of income or academic ability. Universal preschool would cost the parish upwards of $8 million. "This is not going to be cheap," says Taylor. "It's a conversation we need to have not only internally, but within the broader community." The plan also includes equipping all school buildings with heating, cooling and proper ventilation, as well as implementing Common Core State Standards in all EBR schools. Taylor emphasized improving student...

Charter school on Burbank to be K-8, accommodate as many as 860 students

A proposed charter school on Burbank Avenue near Bluebonnet Boulevard could ultimately accommodate as many as 860 students in grades K-8 in a 69,000-square-foot facility that will be operated by Charter Schools USA. As first reported on Thursday by Daily Report, the company has signed a purchase agreement with Lanny Lewis to acquire a 6.5-acre site at the intersection of Burbank and Parkway Drive, with plans to open a school there in time for the 2014 academic year. A regional executive with Ryan Companies, the development and construction company that works with CSUSA in developing schools, says it's too soon to discuss details of the proposed school. But according to documents Ryan Companies filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Planning Commission, the two-story building will be developed on a 3.5-acre site containing 36 classrooms, two science labs, two art studios,...

Publisher: U.S. Justice Department providing no justice for La. children

In his latest column, Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister ponders the existence of "justice" from the U.S. Department of Justice—particularly where children are concerned. Writes McCollister: "The question that begs to be answered is whether the long and tortured legal battle the Department of Justice has waged for more than half a century has done anything to improve schools or educational outcomes for minority children." And what about desegregation? "In Baton Rouge, the effort to desegregate schools has not succeeded," McCollister says. "Despite a half-century of lawsuits, some public systems (like East Baton Rouge) have become again as segregated as ever, with more than 80% minority student populations. Many individual schools have almost 100% minority populations. Something isn't working." In light of these and other failures that previous lawsuits against Louisiana from the Justice Department have brought, McCollister says he finds it bizarre that the...

No justice for children

Where is the "justice" from the U.S. Department of Justice? Especially where children are concerned?

La. ranked 4th nationally for parental empowerment of their kids' education

According to the Center for Education Reform, a Washington D.C.-based, pro-charter school organization, parents in Louisiana are among the most empowered in the nation when it comes to having options for their children's education. Louisiana is ranked No. 4 in CER's 2013 Parent Power Index. "The Parent Power Index is not scoring whether a state's education laws are good or bad, but rather if those policies allow a maximum number of parents to actually make choices," reads the study, which claims to be the first comprehensive evaluation of each state's educational policies. "The truth of the matter is that while a majority of Americans support the basic civil rights of parents to make choices, no state currently affords parents an acceptable level of true power when it comes to their children's education." Check out the complete report. Meanwhile, The Washington Post...

Most La. teachers judged 'effective' by new rating system

About 32% of the state's public school teachers are "highly effective," according to the first year of results under the new Compass evaluation system, the Louisiana Department of Education reports. Meanwhile, about 57% of teachers were rated "effective proficient," while 8% were rated "effective emerging." Only 4% were rated "ineffective." By comparison, 28% of school administrators were rated highly effective and 61% of them effective proficient. Another 9% were rated effective emerging and 2% ineffective. Compass, created by Act 54 of the 2010 legislative session, bases half of its ratings of administrators, teachers and counselors on student learning from one year to the next, as determined by a combination of statistical data and the educators' student learning targets. The remainder of the evaluation is derived from observations of school leadership or classroom teaching, says the department, which has

CABL: 'Big asterisk' needed next to lower 2013 La. ACT scores

At face value, the recently-released average ACT score for Louisiana's high school seniors may appear to be bad news. At a 19.6 average—on a test for which scores range from 1 to 36—Louisiana saw its average fall from 20.3 one year ago, and move even further away from the 20.9 national average. "So when you look at a chart of ACT scores over the last several years, you'll see a long period of incremental increases followed by a big drop in 2013," says the Council For A Better Louisiana in its latest newsletter. "But we need to put a big asterisk by that last one." CABL points out that the drop in scores wasn't unexpected, as Louisiana began requiring all high school seniors to take the ACT this year. Previously, the test was mostly taken by students who were at least considering going to college. Nearly 8,600 additional Louisiana seniors took the test this year than had in the past, CABL says. "And that's why the average ACT score in Louisiana dropped from 20.3 to...

Jindal sees education as next civil rights battle

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says improving the U.S. education system will be the civil rights struggle of the future. "The next great civil rights fight is really about making sure that every child has a great education," the Republican governor said Sunday on the NBC television program Meet the Press. "Look at all of the disparity numbers." The opportunity for Americans to get well-paying jobs and succeed starts with having access to good schools and resources, Jindal added. "Let's be honest, we all want to say we're for equal opportunity in education, but that's not the reality in America," he said. "If your parents have the means, they probably move to a good neighborhood with good public schools, or they're saving their dollars to send you to a good private school. There are too many kids in this country today trapped in poor neighborhoods, with poor, failing public schools." Read the

La. school districts beefing up technology

Over the past year, school districts across the state have upgraded or purchased 65,281 computers, tablets and other devices, according to the Louisiana Department of Education. That means more than 86% of Louisiana public school students attend a school that meets the department's minimum technology standard of one computing device for every seven students. In all, the department says 1,208 schools and 37 districts meet that standard, compared to 812 schools and 17 districts in January 2013. Eight districts meet a more ambitious 3-to-1 ratio, including Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Iberville, and St. Helena in the Capital Region. While the total cost to districts was not available, officials say the department helps defray costs via partnerships with vendors such as Hewlett Packard. Additionally, the department says 37 districts meet the minimum standard for Internet bandwidth or network capacity, and 18 meet the standard for one or the other. The state's district-by-district...

Six charter organizations invited to apply for startup costs from $30M fund

A community partnership hoping to cultivate higher quality schools in Baton Rouge is inviting top charter school operators to apply for grants from a $30 million startup fund. New Schools for Baton Rouge extended the offer to those operators that were identified as top performers in a recent LSU study, which analyzed the track records of all charters that had applied to operate in Baton Rouge. The grants would provide one-time support to help cover startup and growth costs of new charters in Baton Rouge. The qualifying organizations are Celerity Educational Group, Collegiate Academies, Democracy Prep, Family Urban Schools of Excellence, KIPP New Orleans and YES Prep Public Schools. The first round of grants will be awarded this fall to schools opening in 2014. Academic track records, school leadership, plans for change, financial sustainability and community engagement will be considered in determining which schools will be awarded grants. NSBR has set a goal to support the creation...

New leader of teacher group offers olive branch to Jindal, White

Leaders of the Louisiana Association of Educators are reaching out to Gov. Bobby Jindal, hoping to work out the problems with his education reform package that the group sought to have tossed out by the courts. "It's time we take a step back and rethink these extreme policies," LAE President Debbie Meaux says in today's editions of The Advertiser. "Several courts have found constitutional issues with the law, and more cases are popping up across the state. We're asking Governor Jindal and Superintendent (John) White to seriously examine these issues and fix them." Jindal issued a statement following the LAE press conference. "We're always willing to work with stakeholders to improve education in Louisiana," he says. "We continue to work with teachers, superintendents, principals and school board members to make sure we have a great teacher in...

Funding boosted for Course Choice to clear waiting list

Superintendent of Education John White says he's adding another $1 million to the budget for the state's new Course Choice program to eliminate a waiting list of more than 1,000 students. The program, which offers online and nontraditional high school course offerings to public school students, will now cost the state an estimated $3 million for the 2013-14 school year. White says the added $1 million comes from savings in travel and supplies and the elimination of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills for second-graders. Adding to the Course Choice budget will allow as many as 4,000 students to enroll in the program. So far, more than 3,400 students have enrolled in 90 different Course Choice classes offered by 21 providers. East Baton Rouge and Ascension parishes have some of the highest enrollment figures in the state. White says he'll keep the enrollment open until Aug. 27. Academic courses and skills training are being taught by private organizations and universities.

White asks teachers for input on 'back to school tour'

Superintendent of Education John White will be touring the state beginning in September to highlight "innovative, exciting work across the state" in what is being called a "teacher-designed tour." While some stops on the tour have already been lined up, White sent an email to all teachers today asking for their input on where he should stop and which efforts he should spotlight. "It's incredibly important to highlight the creativity and effectiveness of teachers and principals across the state. This teacher-designed tour will help share the best ideas we have in our state to produce results for students," White says in a news release. "It also offers the opportunity to applaud our students." White also released a video today to officially welcome educators and students back to school.

CABL: Stay the course on education standards

When Gov. Bobby Jindal was recently asked about his support for the Common Core education standards at the RedState Gathering of conservatives in New Orleans, he dodged the question, saying only that he is against the federal government mandating curricula for local schools. When pressed, he reportedly said implementing standards would be up to BESE, though most of its members were elected with his support. Jindal's refusal to come out against Common Core was a relief to the Council for a Better Louisiana, which argues that Louisiana needs to stick to the tougher standards despite mounting conservative opposition. "The biggest drumbeat against the Common Core has been that it represents the beginning of national control over public education,"...

Louisiana among national leaders for charter school gains, study says

Among the 26 states that educate roughly 95% of the nation's charter students, Louisiana has seen one of the highest rates of improvement in reading and math scores at its charter schools compared to scores at peer traditional public schools. That's according to The National Charter School Study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, which says 41% of charters in Louisiana outperform their peers in reading, while 46% do so in math. Gov. Bobby Jindal and Superintendent of Education John White touted the study's findings today in a media release. "Indeed, Louisiana has led the nation in utilizing the charter model. One-hundred-twenty-one charter schools across our state are educating nearly 60,000 students," Jindal says. "Through the success of these schools and other reforms, we're working to ensure that every family has the opportunity to get out of...

la carte education

If there's anything to be learned from the first year of Louisiana's Course Choice program, it's that students definitely want it.

Education superintendent questions displacement of EBR students

In July, the Louisiana Department of Education objected to the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board's decision to close two low-scoring schools, Delmont Elementary and Mayfair Middle, and replace them at the same sites with a kindergarten/pre-K school and lab school, respectively. Asked about those changes today, Superintendent of Education John White focused less on plans for the new schools than on what will happen to students displaced by the moves. He said EBR assured him those students would be going to better-performing schools, but said he has yet to see the proof. "My recommendation to BESE as to what to do now will be based on: Did the parish stand by its promise?" said White. The department said in July that it wouldn't grant new site codes to the new schools, meaning the new schools could be saddled with the scores of the old ones—though White subsequently said he...

Is the EBR school board micromanaging its superintendent?

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board has been accused in years past of trying to micromanage the system and its superintendent. The board's decision Thursday night to overturn some of Superintendent Bernard Taylor's personnel decisions while in the process of approving the system's budget raises the issue of micromanagement once again. Board member Jerry Arbour, who moved to restore positions for deans of students and timeout room moderators, says an example of real micromanagement is when a board member goes to a school and tries to tell a principal how to run the school. "We took action in a board meeting," Arbour says. "The No. 1 most important duty of a school board is to come up with a budget." He says the board listened to principals who want certified teachers in the timeout rooms to help those students with their studies. Craig Freeman was part of the 7-4 minority that voted against Arbour's motion. "This is micromanagement at its worst," Freeman says. "Why would we want...