DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES STRATEGY TO TRANSFORM STRUGGLING SCHOOLS
Initiative Empowers Teachers to Propose New Visions and Receive Training to Launch New Schools
BATON ROUGE, La. - The Louisiana Department of Education today announcedBelieve and Succeed: Louisiana's Initiative to Transform Struggling Schools, a strategy to empower educators to establish a new vision. Students in 59 parishes across the state attend a struggling school, with over 135,000 students attending D schools and almost 63,000 students attending F schools. Believe and Succeed will support educators, districts, and nonprofits who have specific plans to turn around struggling schools by creating new quality schools in their communities.
Louisiana has taken historic steps to launch new schools over the past decade. Over the past seven years, the number of New Orleans students attending a school with a failing school performance score (75 or below) has been reduced from 77 percent to 29 percent. Additionally, since 2007 the percentage of Recovery School District students in New Orleans performing at grade-level on state assessments has more than doubled.However, the number of students that remain in struggling schools across Louisiana requires that school systems accelerate the pace of change by opening opportunities to educators statewide.
Starting today, teachers, principals, school districts, and nonprofits seeking to turn around existing D and F schools by creating new schools can apply to receive a grant to support their proposal. Applicants will propose a new vision for a school in which the school leader has flexibility over hiring and firing, budgetary, curricular, and other key decisions. The Department will support those selected by providing matching funds to train teachers to launch their schools and achieve their vision. Applicants may seek training from one of a number of pre-approved, nationally recognized principal training programs; applicants may also seek a local program of their choosing. Upon successful completion of the training program, new schools will launch in place of previously struggling organizations.
"Almost 63,000 students across our state wake up every morning to face the reality that their school is rated F. While progress has been made towards addressing this serious need, improvement is not happening fast enough. We can change this," said State Superintendent John White, "There are great leaders with creative ideas within our schools. Believe and Succeed calls on these leaders to act now and serve Louisiana's most underserved students."
New School Development Grants are available to districts and local non-profits that apply with a qualified school leader candidate, as well as to individual prospective school leaders who present a high-quality plan for leading a school. While partnerships between prospective leaders and districts or nonprofits are encouraged, they are not mandatory. Teachers may apply without the sponsorship of a specific district; if selected, their new school vision will ultimately be matched with a school district or charter school operator.
Expanding Excellence Grants will fund the expansion of high-performing schools and school networks to serve at-risk students who would otherwise attend D or F schools. Applicants will include school districts and non-profits.
The Department of Education will fund Believe and Succeed by repurposing $5 million of existing grant dollars. The Department has taken budgetary reductions of 28.6 percent in state general fund dollars over the last four years; this program will require no additional funding.
Believe and Succeed will be funded primarily by the federal 1003a and Race to the Top grants already dedicated to the turnaround of struggling schools.
This initiative is a key component of Louisiana Believes 2013-2014, the state's comprehensive plan to improve and expand educational opportunities for students, support educators and empower families. Louisiana Believes is based on the belief that all students can achieve academic success, and that those closest to students - parents and educators, not bureaucrats - should be empowered to make decisions to support the success of their students.