Southwest Louisiana educators discuss changes in Louisiana Believes plan

By By Nichole Osinski / American Press

State School Superintendent John White

this week addressed changes for Louisiana Believes 2013-2014, the

Department of Education’s

plan that has changed academic standards through Course Choice,

Compass and the scholarship program.

“Our schools have achieved tremendous

things over the last year,” White said. “We are taking on a harder

challenge in our

state by putting our students on a level that is comparable to the

playing field of any child across the country and by ensuring

that our children have a path to career or college.”

Among the changes is the adjustment of

the Early Childhood Network into a pilot program that will be in full

effect in 2015.

Until then, the department will work with various pilot networks

to test for successful education policies for 3- and 4-year-olds.

White said there will be a stronger

focus next year on what educators are teaching. To help teachers stay up

to date on Louisiana

classroom requirements a Teacher Toolbox and Louisiana Leader

application were created with guides on what and how to teach.

Additionally, White said 2,000 Louisiana Teacher Leaders will be trained to give instruction on the new standards. The toolbox

will be released at the end of the month with short- and long-term plans for teachers.

One area that White said needed significant improvement is educating children with disabilities. The department reported that

only 29 percent of students in Louisiana who have special needs graduate.

White said teachers need more support

through the Compass system to educate special-needs students. Such

support would include

academic monitoring, state funding and data reporting. The

department plans to release a special-education guide this summer.

School Board Vice President Annette

Ballard said Calcasieu Parish has set up programs to increase academic

success for students

with disabilities. She said losing any student is a concern and

that success depends on meetings students’ individual needs.

“We would like to see all of our students graduate,” she said. “That is incumbent on us to make sure all assessments are in

place and making all accommodations required.”

The updated plan includes more emphasis on post-high school education, starting with low-performing schools. According to

reports from the department more than 63,000 children attend F-rated schools and only 19 percent of all Louisiana students

graduate college.

Calcasieu School Board member Joe

Andrepont said to boost graduation rates the state needs to have more

focus on students

receiving a two-year or technical degree. He disagreed with

requiring all students to take the ACT as well as using those

scores for the school’s performance rating. He said there should

to be a distinction between what kinds of careers students

want and what they are being required to learn in school.

“By separating the two we can accomplish a lot and we are going to increase our graduation rate,” he said. “It would be more

beneficial to allocate funds into career paths that lead to ... job opportunities in the skilled workforce.”