Louisiana Education Superintendent John White. (Nichole Osinski / American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 5:41 PM
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.