The state of Louisiana has a new program for addressing low-performing schools. Each school in Louisiana is given a grade: A for best schools, F for
worst. Recently, the state has instituted a grant program for schools with
grades of D or F. The “Believe and Succeed” grants are divided into three
1. New School Development Grants, which are intended for the founding of new “autonomous schools”
2. Expanding Excellence Grants, which are intended for programs that bring the resources of high-performing schools to students enrolled in D or F schools
3. School Improvement Sustainability Grants, which are intended to support assessment and improvement efforts at “Focus Schools,” which are defined as schools with grades of D or F, or any school whose graduation rate is under 60%
This program is currently in its second round of grants; the first grants were given in August 2013 ($5.7 million), and the second round of grants will be given in late December 2013.
It’s worth mentioning that this program is accepting applications not only from schools, but also nonprofit organizations, foundations, and other “local partners” who are willing to contribute matching funds. Though the request for proposals states that matching funds are not mandatory, it says that “the entity that should complete the application is the entity providing the matching funds, not the school organization.”
The request for proposals also gives detailed expectations about leadership training for those who would lead the new autonomous schools. It lists five approved leadership programs:
Building Excellent Schools
Columbia Summer Principals Academy
The New Teacher Project (Pathway to Leadership in Urban Schools)
This grant program’s stated mission is to provide “high-quality options” for students enrolled in D or F schools in the state. One recipient of the first round of grants was the Jefferson Parish School System, which received $1.3 million in funding, of which $500,000 is going to developing a network of partnerships between D/F schools and other organizations (not specifically named); the other $800,000 is allotted to providing leadership training to a cohort of eighteen teacher-leaders.
It’s unclear what the effects of the funding will be, or to what extent the leadership programs or plans for new autonomous schools are aligned with NCTE position statements. Position statements that may be particularly relevant to these initiatives are the statements on formative assessment, machine scoring, class size, the NCTE Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment, the Guideline on Non-White Minorities in English and Language Arts Materials, the Guideline on Preparing Teachers with Knowledge of Children’s and Adolescent Literature, and the Position Statement of Principles and Example Effective Practices for Online Writing Instruction (OWI).
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