Two Louisiana Educators Receive National Honors

According to Louisiana Believes, Steven Gamache and Jennifer Williams, two Louisiana educators, received the 2019-2020 prestigious, nationally recognized Milken Educator Award as well as the accompanying unrestricted check for $25,000. The two language arts teachers are among 40 educators nationwide to receive this year’s award.

Steven Gamache is an eighth grade language arts teacher at Paul Habans Charter School in Orleans Parish. He obtains a bachelors in English from Fordham University and a master’s in adolescent education from the College of Saint Rose. Aside from being the school’s lead ELA teacher, Gamache is also the coach to sixth and seventh grade ELA interventionists.

Jennifer Williams, a sixth grade language arts teacher at John Q. Adams School in Jefferson Parish, received her bachelor’s in elementary education from the University of New Orleans. She’s also the organizer of her school’s “Test Fest”, one of the schools biggest events.

Both Gamache and Williams were prepared for an assembly, celebrating their schools’ wonderful academic gains, when they were given the surprise of a lifetime as the Milken Educator Awards Founder, Lowell Milken, announced the true reason they were there.

“There are very, very few human beings walking the planet with the commitment, intelligence, sense of humor, thoughtfulness and integrity that Steve possesses. He’s the newest member of a very elite group and he deserves every accolade he received – and will receive – today and going forward.” said Tracy Blowers about teacher Steven Gamache in response to receiving the Milken Educator Award.

Watch the video for Steven Gamache receiving his award here.

Alena Alexeeva says about Williams, “Mrs.Williams is one of the best teachers. She is always thinking about the class and teaches her students well. She helps students understand a new topic easily and motivates her students to never give up. She also has very good methods in her class that make learning easy and fun.”

Watch the video for Jennifer Williams receiving her award here.

Winners of the Milken Educator Award are selected in their early to mid-career, with consideration of what they have already achieved, as well as the promise of what they will accomplish in their career. Aside from the $25,000 prize and public recognition, the award also includes being inducted into the Milken Educator Network, a community of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals, and specialists who have also received the honor of the award.

Winners of the 2019-2020 Milken Educator Award will also attend a Milken Educator Forum in Indianapolis, Indiana on March 26-28, 2020, where they will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and peers and elaborate and exchange ideas with both state and federal on the future of education.

The Award’s “Why Not Us” program will pair each 2019 recipient to a Milken Educator veteran mentor so they can explore, collaborate, and prepare new ideas for expanded leadership roles that better and solidify education practice and policy.

For more education related information, click here.

Promising Outcome for Schools in the ESSA Plan

On November 6, 2019, the Louisiana Department of Education revealed performance data that detailed how well schools and child care centers across the state prepare their students, from birth to 12th grade. You can find the results online at the Louisiana School and Center Finder.  The public school scores that were announced signify a milestone in the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA Plan), which is a required effort to identify and improve struggling public schools. The results of the scores show promising outcomes for many of these struggling schools that were identified. According to this article from Louisiana Believes:

  • Struggling schools undergoing improvement efforts grew by an average of 4.8 SPS points, compared with 3.9 SPS points among other improving schools.
  • Of the 219 struggling schools identified by the state, excluding alternative schools, 43 schools–20 percent–improved a full letter grade, compared with 15 percent among all other public schools, excluding those already scoring at the “A” level.
  • Of 219 schools initially identified under the ESSA Plan as in need of comprehensive improvement, excluding alternative schools, 36 percent increased by 3 or more school performance score (SPS) points, 40 percent remained generally steady, and 24 percent declined by 3 or more SPS points. By comparison, 29 percent of other schools, excluding alternative schools, increased by 3 or more points.

These results are also a great indicator for the need of bigger improvement in struggling schools. Since the ESSA Plan requires Louisiana to identify struggling public schools, 571 newly identified schools have been added to this list of schools that have consistently struggling groups of students. These schools, which make up 44 percent of all of Louisiana’s public schools, are now required to develop plans for improvement pending state approval and funding. Out of those 571 schools, 89 have received a grade of “F” for two or more consecutive years and 25 have received an “F” for four or more consecutive years, reinforcing their eligibility for inclusion in the state-run Recovery School District.

“Today’s release provides early indications that school systems taking seriously their responsibility to provide a quality education for all children can make significant improvements, even in persistently struggling schools. The release also underscores the urgency of taking action. More than 45,000 students still attend a school rated ‘F.’ This can and must change.” said state superintendent John White.

This release is also effective in providing information for parents and communities with information on early childhood centers, which have been consistently showing improvement. Compared to the past year, 126 more early childhood sites achieved Proficient or above in the 2018-2019 school year. These results also indicate the necessity for expanding access to these high-quality programs, especially for children birth to age three. While 86 percent of economically disadvantaged 4 year olds have access to quality early learning, only 1 percent of our infants, 6 percent of our toddlers, and 26 percent of our 3 year olds do.

Based on the results, 271 schools have been recognized as in need of comprehensive intervention for the next school year and are required to submit their plans for school improvement. The other 300 schools are required to submit a plan for urgent intervention in regards to struggling persistently with groups of students and/or school discipline.

For more education related information, click here.

 

Louisiana Special School District Hosts Professional Development

The Louisiana Special School District (SSD) hosted a day of professional development focused on curriculum accessibility and support for students with low-incidence disabilities, like blindness, deafness, autism, and those with limited communication access due to multiple disabilities, brought together about 140 educators from across Louisiana state.

The event, called “Click or Treat: Content Needs Accessibility”, included Halloween-themed activities and was the first event like this to be hosted by the SSD, an organization that hopes to establish itself as a statewide resource for students with low-incidence disabilities. The Louisiana School for the deaf and the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired in Baton Rouge hosted the event.

“By launching this trendsetting professional development opportunity, the SSD wishes to signal that we take very seriously our strategic commitment to creating and sustaining unifying systems of support for all SSD schools and programs. This event is therefore aligned with the SSD’s long term goal of expanding support to students with disabilities across the state through outreach and educational offerings. We are pleased at the level of interest and engagement surrounding this effort and expect to have more such opportunities in the months and years ahead,” said SSD Superintendent Ernest E. Garrett III.

The event lasted a day, and participants were able to attend a range of sessions to help learn new, instructional strategies and experience new technologies to aid in student learning. The session topics covered how educators can engineer their environments for learners who benefit from visual support to how educators can use tactile graphics to support STEM instruction to how schools can create comprehensive plans to help support diverse learners.

Participants of the event were also given information about cost-effective resources available to them year-round through the Louisiana Accessible Education Materials Center. Overseen by the SSD, this statewide resource center provides expertise and tools designed to aid in the advancement of the education of students with low incidence disabilities. It hosts professional development opportunities for educators and members of the community, has a resource library with nearly 3,000 educational materials and assistive devices, and one-on-one training and consultation.

The LA-AEM serves school-aged children with visual impairments and provides specialized paper for Braille and large print users, educational kits and learning tools for the visually impaired, and professional publications and guides for teachers of the visually impaired.

Louisiana Accessible Education Materials Center Director, Robin King, says “LA-AEM is a little-known but invaluable resource for stakeholders across Louisiana. If educators or families need access to devices to enhance listening or to have everyday classroom materials translated to braille, for example, it’s just a phone call away.”

During the regular school-year, LA-AEM is open from seven am until four pm, Monday through Friday. During the summer, LA-AEM is closed on Fridays and open from six am until four thirty pm, Monday through Thursday.

You can request a service from the Louisiana Accessible Education Materials Center here.

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“Extension Academy” Pilot Programs in Louisiana High Schools

An alternative graduation model, called the “Extension Academy”, will allow specific students to participate in a fifth year of high school so they can earn career skills and gain credits toward a degree as well as increase their chances of being successful after graduation. Louisiana Believes states the priority deadline for school year 2020-2021 is November 20.

In 2018, around 15,000 Louisiana students who graduated on a TOPS University Diploma pathway weren’t eligible for a TOPS scholarship for higher education, and about 3,200 students who graduated with a Jump Start TOPS Tech Career Diploma weren’t eligible for TOPS Tech scholarships to pursue further training and weren’t on track to earn industry-based credentials. The Extension Academy pilot programs are tailored to support students who are set to graduate from high school, but haven’t earned the Taylor Opportunity for Students (TOPS) scholarships in order to fund their post-graduation education or acquire post-secondary credentials.

Over the course of a three year pilot, Louisiana schools that are interested in bringing this pathway to their students must outline how they plan to provide these students a debt-free one-year opportunity to “achieve significant progress toward a state-recognized associate’s degree through accelerated dual enrollment college experiences, complete a registered pre-apprenticeship, and/or earn an advanced industry-based credential.” Included in their pitch, they are required to detail the different types of support and post-secondary transitional coaching they will have available to the participating students as they complete the pathway.

About the opportunity, superintendent John White says, “”The question we used to ask ourselves was how high we could raise our graduation rate and how low we could push our dropout rate. Now we are compelled to ask what happens to our graduates, and whether they risk dropping out of work and the economy even after they graduate from high school. If this is the case, even with a small number of students, we must rise to meet this new dropout challenge. We encourage our school systems, as well as our higher education, business and community partners, to develop small-scale models for study and potential replication in the future, and to consider the potential impact their involvement could have on young people at a critical point in their lives.”

After the application deadline, the selected pilot locations will be presented to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for their approval during the joint meeting with the Louisiana Board of Regents this upcoming winter.

The approved Extension Academy plan will bring together 29 different area schools and other local partners to provide students with hands-on opportunities in an effort to build better workplace skills, training in construction crafts, graphic design skills, and increase familiarity with video editing and software development. The accredited higher education partner, which will provide accelerated dual enrollment college experiences, will be Southern New Hampshire University.

Today, there are 18 students participating in the pathway, and each student has a uniquely individualized plan for this 3 year experience.

For more education related information, click here.

 

Nicholls Alumni Scholarships are Growing

Nicholls State University, founded in 1948, has always looked out for its students. However, their Alumni Federation has gone even further by supporting Nicholls students with multiple scholarships. The newest scholarship, which was awarded for the first time in the Fall of 2017 is, The J. Nannie Endowed Alumni Scholarship. The student receiving this scholarship has to be at the sophomore level, have at least a 3.2 GPA, and must be involved in a minimum of one university organization. Of course, they must be a full time student as well. The scholarship is only awarded for one year but the student will receive $250 for one fall and one spring semester.

Each year two upperclassmen are awarded the Alumni Federation Upperclassman Scholarships. The recipients must have a 3.0 GPA and at least 60 hours of credit, semester credit. $800 is given to each student for the fall and spring semesters. In addition so Upperclassman scholarships, Nicholls Alumni Federation also offers two freshmen the Alumni Federation Freshman Leader Scholarship. This scholarship is for incoming freshman and they must have at least a 3.25 GPA. They also have to score a minimum of a 20 on the ACT.

Established in 2015, the Nicholls Alumni Legacy Scholarship is a scholarship that helps encourage those to follow in their parent’s educational footsteps. In order to receive this award, the recipient must have one parent that finished a program of study at Nicholls State University. It has to be verified. The recipient must be in good academic standing and they have to be a full-time undergraduate student. $500 will be given during the fall and spring semester of the year the student received the scholarship.

In addition to the Nicholls Alumni Legacy Scholarship, the Federation also offers the Peltier Foundation Nicholls Alumni Legacy Scholarship. The Peltier Foundation has supported Nicholls for the past two decades with monetary donations and by supporting programs and projects within the school. A Peltier Foundation Board Member, Stepehn Peltier, explains how the purpose of the scholarship is to help “increase the value of being a Nicholls alum”. $75,000 has been given to the scholarship fund from the Peltier Foundation since it was founded in 2016.

In order to receive the award, the student must be in good academic standing and they must also be full-time undergraduate. One parent must be an alumni of Nicholls State University; the student must also type a 250 word essay explaining, in detail, why they deserve the scholarship.

The 2017 Corporate Mark of Honor was awarded to the Peltier Foundation by the Nicholls Alumni Federation because of how generous the Peltier Foundation has been. Jeremy Becker, the executive director of the Nicholls Foundation stated, “The Peltier Foundation has made a tremendous impact across the Nicholls Campus, and we’re proud to continue working with them. Scholarships like this one help open the door for more students to experience what Nicholls State University has to offer and to shape the future of Louisiana”.

For more information about the Alumni Foundation, click here.

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Nicholls Ranks Top in Health Sciences

Thibodaux’s Nicholls State University’s health sciences degree program has been recognized as one of the best in the United States by a reputable healthcare degree program source. This source provides helpful information to those considering a degree in healthcare administration, including reviews on programs offered by various universities, interactive articles, and FAQ guides. On the website, they briefly share their mission:

“At Healthcare Administration Degree Programs, we provide resources to help you learn about both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in healthcare administration. We have information concerning online programs as well as traditional degree-granting institutions. Additionally, we have many articles and links that address important topics affecting healthcare administration today. Our FAQ section provides answers to common questions about healthcare administration and the degree programs that can prepare you for work in this field. We even have interactive articles to help you learn and understand the issues affecting work in healthcare today.”

Out of the twenty-five schools in the ranking, Nicholls State University ranked at Number 14. It was also the only school in Louisiana included on the list.

The website utilizes data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the federal program that gathers and analyzes education-related data in the United States and other nations. NCES is based in the United States Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences, and satisfies a Congressional mandate to collect and analyze the state of American education. The data collected from NCES is used to review factors such as post-graduation pay rates, student retention rates, and average SAT scores of students who were accepted. The website also relies on student reviews before issuing schools a score between zero and one hundred.

The website nodded to the comprehensive curriculum, intended for entry-level students and healthcare professionals, of Nicholls’ Allied health sciences. Combined with reviews from students and the program’s affordability, Nicholls was given a score of 81.8 out of 100. The lowest awarded score on the list was 77.23, issued to Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky, while the highest awarded was 100, issued to Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.

In response to the ranking, Jennifer Plaisance, the allied health sciences department head at Nicholls State University, remarks:

“It’s exciting when someone from outside of our campus can recognize the accomplishments of our program. Rankings such as this one validate the hard work of our faculty, who pour a lot of time and resources into ensuring our students are successful in the classroom and the real world. We pride ourselves on our graduates having the confidence and the foundation to learn whatever skills are required to be a professional in the workforce.”

The allied health sciences department is one of the most frequented departments at Nicholls. The department is also state-known for its effective and efficient training which yields productive graduates. Degree choices include either dietetics of health sciences, and the concentration options are pre-professional, pre-athletic training, communicative disorders, or nutrition and food services. The program states that its mission is “… to prepare students to contribute to a global society and a diverse workforce as productive, responsible, and engaged citizens, and as well-educated allied health professionals to meet the healthcare needs of the Bayou Region and beyond.”

For more education related information, click here.