Jump Start Convention Brings Together Economic and Education Leaders

Over one thousand Louisiana educators and industry leaders gathered virtually at the seventh annual Jump Start Convention, as reported by a Louisiana Believes press release. The convention is held annually by the Louisiana Department of Education in an effort to reflect on the progress of Louisiana’s premier CTE program, (career and technical education). This year’s theme was “Inspire. Innovate. Impact,” and though held virtually the spirit of cooperation was alive and well.

Jump Start is a career and technical training program that prepares Louisiana students to lead productive lives as adults where they are capable of continuing their education after high school while earning certificates in high-wage career sectors. Students participating in the Jump Start diploma pathway while in high school are required to earn credentials that are well-known and well-valued in the industry.

If done successfully, the graduate earns a Career Diploma, and the school in which they attended receives the same accountability grade for preparing them for careers in job sectors with high demand. This “reward” of sorts earned by the school is similar to the type they receive for students achieving top academic honors.

Louisiana’s Superintendent of Education, Dr. Cade Brumley said of the program, ““Louisiana’s graduates must be ready for a career or college when their time in high school is done. The success of our Jump Start program and of events like this convention demonstrate our commitment to ensuring every student is on track to a professional career, college degree or service.”

The convention featured a wide array of events conducted by top Louisiana Education Leaders, including a welcome from the Louisiana Department of Education Director of Quality Diplomas Jessica Vallelungo and an address titled, “State of CTE in Louisiana” by Dr. Brumley.

Additionally, the convention featured an anticipated announcement of the continuation of the impactful Jump Start Construction Connect Scholarship by Louisiana Community and Technical College System Chief Public Affairs Officer Quintin Taylor and TJC Group’s Nicholas Johnson.

Attendees of the convention participated in over 25 events that all uniquely complemented the event’s theme. One such event was the heavily-attended “Strong Start 2020 Career and Technical Education Instruction Panel,” moderated by Vallelungo. The panel included Ascension Public Schools Supervisor of Career and Technical education Rhonda Matthews, St. Landry Parish School Board Supervisor of STEAM Dr. Therese Ellender and Desoto Parish Schools Director of Student Services Dr. Darrell Hampton.

Events and panels like the “Strong Start 2020 CTE Instruction Panel” allow for regional economic leaders to gather, discuss, and share occupational forecasting for high wage, high demand careers in their economic region. In addition to this, a panel of STEM industry leaders also gather to discuss the future of the state’s workforce.

For a diploma pathway like Jumpstart, which is so highly-attained in Louisiana, it is incredibly beneficial for education leaders to hear such economic forecasts in order to ensure not only the validity of the credits and experience earned by their students. It also allows for the educational directors to ensure that graduates will leave the Jumpstart Program ready for a career in a field that is in high demand.

The annual convention also signified the inaugural class of The Louisiana DOE honored and celebrated the inaugural STEM Pathway graduating class. The Class of 2020 was the first cohort of students to successfully complete rigorous coursework designed to train them to succeed in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM),  and to mark the achievement, the 23 students received a special endorsement for their diploma. Also, BESE approved additions to the JumpStart 2.0 initiative, thus expanding career courses, pathways, and industry-based certifications available to students.

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Louisiana Teacher of the Year and Principal

Recently, the Louisiana Department of Education announced the 2021 Louisiana Teacher of the year and Principal of the year in a press release from the Louisiana Department of Education.

Nathalie Roy, of Glasgow Middle School in East Baton Rouge Parish, was named the 2021 State Teacher of the Year while Anita Dione Bradford, of Parkway Elementary School in Vernon Parish, was named the 2021 State Principal of the Year. The announcement was made at the virtual, 14th Annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Awards Gala, where  all Teacher and Principal of the Year finalists and semi-finalists were also honored.

2021 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year

At Glasgow Middle School in East Baton Rouge Parish, Nathalie Roy teaches a diverse selection of course offerings including, Roman technology, classical mythology, as well as Latin. This international focus in her courses is a result of her educational background as she’s studied classical archaeology at the American Academy in Rome, where she was a Fullbright scholar, and at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Greece.

Roy is a National Board Certified Teacher, who has used her experience to publish articles with Cambridge University Press and the American Classical League on topics regarding Roman technology. During the pandemic, she has partnered with the American Classical League to offer free, live-streamed, and kinesthetic lessons on Roman Technology.

At school, her classes are expectedly focused on ancient Roman and Greek life, though it’s similarly infused with STEM. This cross-discipline focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is a particularly unique curriculum idea that has afforded Roy many grant opportunities over the years, and her students benefit from it.

With 63% of her students initially testing at the Approaching Basic and Basic achievement levels rising to 89% at Mastery or Advanced, despite not having prior exposure to classical mythology; it’s a testament to Roy’s teaching and a validation of the deservedness of her title.

2021 Louisiana State Principal of the Year

Parkway Elementary School’s principal Alnata Dione Bradford is (like the State Teacher of the Year) the proud daughter of two educators. While her parents, two Lousisana educators with a combined over 65 years of teaching experience, instilled a dedication and importance of love, faith, and education into their family, Bradford took the lessons to heart as she ascended at Parkway from assistant principal to the title she holds today.

Approximately 580 students from Grades 1-4 are taught at Parkway, which is located near an Army installation in Fort Polk, Louisiana, and over 90% of the school is military affiliated. Each month, Parkway tends to gain or lose a half-dozen students due to station reassignments or military deployments, but despite this fluctuating enrollment, Bradford is rightfully perceived as remaining resilient and ensuring a notable learning impact is made for all of the students for however long they attend Parkway, which was recognized as an “A” school in 2017.

Last year, the school was also recognized as a “Louisiana Top Gains” school with its 10.1 growth points earned, earning it the honor of receiving the most growth district-wide with its School Performance Score (SPS) increasing by 9.6 points. Appropriately this success is due to Bradford’s leadership.

A full listing of previous Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year honorees can be found in the following Louisiana DOE library. Louisiana Teachers and Principals of the Year are chosen by state education leaders, administrators and committees in partnership with Dream Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Principals. All collaborate annually to recognize and celebrate some of the state’s most high-achieving and exceptional educators with the Teacher and Principal of the Year programs.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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