White outlines 2013-14 priorities for education department

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana Education

Superintendent John White says improving the graduation rate among

students with disabilities

and enabling high school students to earn technical college

associate degrees are among the priorities in the coming year

for the state education department.

White also said Wednesday that officials will establish a fund aimed at turning around failing schools.

He outlined the priorities for the coming year in a telephone news conference and in a speech in Jefferson Parish.

Other priorities include developing an early childhood education network that will cover all "early learners" by 2015, as

well as a program to train teachers statewide to meet nationwide assessment standards.

White said he does not foresee any new legislation being needed to implement the priorities, and he said the plans will more

effectively use limited state money while improving education.

Although statistics show public education is improving overall in the state, the education agency's priorities are aimed at

tackling persistent problems.

For instance, only 29 percent of students with special needs graduate in Louisiana, according to the department.

"That's unacceptable by any bar," White said.

He said plans for improving that result, to be outlined next summer, will focus on data, academic monitoring, possible shifts

in state funding, and the use of the existing charter school and voucher programs.

White said plans will be released in April

to reshape the state's career diploma, requiring two years of

workplace-based training

or technical college education that would let a high school

student graduate with an associate degree from a technical college.

The state says 49 percent of Louisiana's young adults enter four-year colleges, though only 19 percent graduate. Another 15

percent earn associate degrees.

"This leaves two-thirds of Louisianans with

no workforce credential," the state said in materials accompanying

White's presentation.

Efforts to reduce the number of public

schools in the state earning an "F'' in the state accountability program

will encompass

existing programs, including an Achievement Zone in East Baton

Rouge Parish and the state Recovery School District, which

takes control of failing local schools. In addition, plans will be

announced in March for the Louisiana Believes fund, which

will take applications from local districts for efforts to

overhaul the failing schools.