Last Modified: Friday, September 23, 2016 10:01 AM
Community members, educators, leaders and school board members gathered Wednesday to hold a community conversation about the future of educating Louisiana’s students. Ganey Arsement, Calcasieu Parish teacher, gave an overview of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which will replace the No Child Left Behind Act in the 2017/2018 school year. Education advocate Karran Harper Royal spoke about community schools as viable alternatives to charter schools.
Arsement said ESSA will return decision making for the nation’s education back to communities, parents and local educators. He said the law guarantees everybody’s participation. “Everybody has the right to participate in the education of our children.” He said ESSA will promote less testing to give students more time to learn. Arsement said the excessive testing of NCLB narrows the curriculum and focus in the classroom and takes freedom away from the curriculum.
“If parents and teachers act, ESSA can reduce the number of standardized tests and have a voice in what’s happening in schools,” said Arsement.
Arsement said districts will be required to write a plan about how they plan to prepare their students for the future. “Those plans have to be created with the help of parents and teachers.
“ESSA can provide opportunities to focus on providing a well-rounded education,” said Arsement. He said it is written into the ESSA that students will have access to history, math, art, P.E. and music.
Royal, of New Orleans, talked about an alternative to charter schools, community schools. She said 93 percent of the schools in New Orleans are charter schools. “We shouldn’t depend on any one model for how we transform our struggling schools.” She said that over the last 11 years of having primarily charter schools, in a school district that is less than 50,000 students, they have 26,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 fall through the cracks. She said they are not in school and not working.
“We believe that community schools are another way to ensure a better future for our children,” said Royal. Royal said that if a child comes to school hungry or sick or is worried about other issues that have nothing to do with them, the family does not have the resources and the information and stability to support those students.
“We believe that community schools are a way to leverage public school facilities to become hubs of educational, recreational, cultural, health and civic partnerships which can optimize the conditions for learning and catalyze the revitalization of not just that student, but of the whole community,” said Royal.
Royal said community schools give the opportunity to look at what struggling students really need. She said as they begin to put together the ESSA plans at the district level and at the state level they want to make sure that communities have a good understanding of what community schools are.
Royal said community schools are schools that have a strengthened curriculum and improved assessments that help teachers teach. She said community schools also have supports such as health care, eye care, and social and emotional services. “We’re talking about coordinating all of these services so that they can actually help the children who need the most help.” She said they want to make sure they engage the whole community, parents, teachers and administrators.
“Together, we can create the schools that all our children deserve,” said Royal.