Sponsorship Applications Open for Summer Food Service Program

The Louisiana Department of Education has recently announced that they have begun accepting applications from eligible agencies and organizations wanting to contribute to the 2022 Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), as per their news release.

The announcement comes from the Louisiana Department of Education’s Division of Nutrition Support wherein they are seeking sponsors and program sites for their providing healthy meals to school children in the summer months. As a whole, the SFSP provides food for students from disadvantaged backgrounds at a time of year when school is not in session.

Applications are being accepted for those who wish to participate in the 2022 Summer Food Service Program until April 15, 2022. Once accepted and approved, sponsors would receive financial assistance to help with the cost of obtaining, preparing, and serving food under the program. While the financial assistance would include administrative costs, Sponsors would be responsible for providing a capable staff and be able to exhibit managerial skills and food service capabilities. Any approved sponsors would be allowed to purchase meals through an agreement with an area school or through a contract for meals with a food vendor.

The LDOE provided examples of local organizations that have often returned to serve as SFSP sponsors. The examples included public or private non-profit schools; local, municipal, parish, tribal, or state governments; private and non-profit organizations; public or private non-profit camps; and private or non-profit universities or colleges.

In addition to needing sponsors, the Louisiana Department of Education has also announced that they are in need of agencies or organizations willing to serve as physical locations for food to be served. These program site locations would need to work with an approved program sponsor that would be financially and administratively responsible for meeting all of the program’s requirements for the applicable meal service types located at the site.

All prospective new or returning sponsors for the 2022 SFSP would need to complete the ‘22 SFSP Training Sessionsthat are provided by the Louisiana Department of Education. Training sessions for the 2022 season will not be held in person as in the past, but they will instead be conducted and hosted through an online platform with the associated slide decks containing training information archived online. Registration for the sessions can be found at the LA Fit Kids Website, and the slide deck archive will also be stored on that site following the conclusion of the training sessions.

The SFSP is a federally-funded program that’s administered on behalf of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the services provided by the state’s education department. The Summer Food Service Program is traditionally held in economically disadvantaged areas, neighborhoods, or communities in which half of the school children are eligible to receive meals during the school year that are either free or reduced-price. Eligibility for participation in the SFSP can also be determined by census information via the use of site-level Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) information or by the use of individual eligibility of children.

Additionally, the SFSP will provide meals to any children aged 18 or younger as well as anyone over the age of 18 who is determined by a state or local agency to be mentally or physically disabled. These individuals would also have to participate in a public or private non-profit school program established for the mentally or physically disabled during the school year.

Prospective applicants or program sites seeking more information or answers to specific questions have been encouraged by the LDOE to contact the Department’s Division of Nutrition Support Staff.

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LDOE App Brings Parents and Community Together for Student Growth

The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) recently announced a new initiative that’s focused on encouraging parents, community partners, and families to work together to improve student outcomes, according to this statement from the school board.  The initiative is called “BE ENGAGED ®,” and its focus of bringing students’ educational stakeholders together is not a new one, but it is an incredibly important element in ensuring student growth, success, and sustainability. The initiative is “powered” through an intuitive app called “PimPoints.” The app will essentially reward parents with a digital reward currency also called “PimPoints” for simply engaging in their child’s education in ways that they likely already participate in.

For instance, parents attending their child’s school’s open house or participating in a parent-teacher conference are two activities that a parent is likely already making time for, but they would also reward parents with “PimPoints” for their time. This way, parents already thoroughly engaged in their child’s educational life are receiving additional rewards, and this incentive will also attract other parents to keep a closer eye on the child’s school calendar of events.

In addition to reward tracking, the app will also track the school’s events for parents and alert them with notifications for additional opportunities to be engaged at their child’s school. Parents will also be notified on behalf of the school with general information about student learning. Parents participating in these student learning engagement events will be able to exchange their earned PimPoints for coupons and digital rewards that have been provided by local businesses. And it’s this specific exchange that brings together a student’s community, school, and parents/guardiansin a way that not only keeps everyone engaged in student growth but also at the forefront of educational synergy.

Additionally, this initiative could not have come at a better time, as November has recently been announced by Governor John Bel Edwards as “National Family Engagement Month,” making this initiative quite timely and beneficial.

The Parent and Family Engagement Coordinator for the LDOE, Dr. Antigua Hunter said of the initiative, “LEAP assessment results show that there is a great amount of intervention that has to take place at all levels and innovative methods and unconventional thinking is warranted. We cannot sit around and watch our children be impacted by the lack of engagement. Now is the time for parents, families, and communities to be engaged!”

As defined by the LDOE’s newly-developed Birth-12 BE ENGAGED® Framework, family engagement is “an empowering partnership among families, educators, practitioners and communities with shared responsibility for the personal success of children and youth.” The state also cited a 2018 Global Family Research Project study that called family engagement “one of the most powerful predictors of social-emotional development, educational attainment and success in both school and life for children and youth.”

The PimPoints app will officially launch on Apple and Android devices starting November 15, 2021. Additionally, local businesses can find out how to include their services within the app by contacting their nearest school district’s Parent and Family Engagement Coordinator, particularly the roster of the 2021-2022 Parent and Family Engagement Coordinators, organized by district.

The LDOE has shared its reasoning for establishing the Birth-12 BE ENGAGED® Framework,

in saying that “the Department of Education gathered various stakeholders (families, community partners, educational professionals) to collaborate to ensure the development of a comprehensive family engagement framework for Louisiana families and children. The Framework was developed to guide the school systems and early childhood community networks to support intentional planning of policies and practices and implementation of high-quality family engagement practices.”

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DOE Introduces Teacher Recruitment & Retention Fellowship

Earlier this month, the Louisiana Department of Education selected school system leaders from across the state to assist in an effort to create a program foe teacher recruitment and retention for the educators in Louisiana’s most vital certification areas, as reported by an LABelieves’ press release.

The State’s Department of Education selected “human capital leaders” from sixteen Louisiana school systems to participate in the fellowship, which will be operating through the national organization, Urban Schools Human Capital Academy. This organization is a non-profit aimed at supporting and bringing together leaders in schools and districts to drive a measurable improvement in teacher and principal quality. The USHCA operates in sixteen states, and has experience in providing new and existing school and district leaders to grow their management skills and become leaders, or human capital leaders.

This particular fellowship will consist of two national workshops and monthly state sessions for this particular Louisiana cohort, which will begin in late October, concluding in Spring 2021. The Louisiana Department of Educationhopes that this effort will bring highly-effective educators and leaders from across the state in order to ensure that every student learns from a high-quality teacher without interruption in personnel.

In the release, State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Cade Brumley stated, “An effective teacher has the power to transform the lives of countless children, which is why we must do everything we can to attract and keep the very best in Louisiana. This fellowship will expose system leadership to what’s working for districts around the nation, while also sparking collaboration that will lead to innovations in our state.”

The sixteen Louisiana school Systems participating in the fellowship program are:

Avoyelles Parish

Caddo Parish

Catahoula Parish

City of Baker School System

Grant Parish

Iberville Parish

Livingston Parish

Morehouse Parish

Ouachita Parish

Pointe Coupee Parish

Rapides Parish

St. Charles Parish

St. Landry Parish

St. Tammany Parish

Tangipahoa Parish

West Baton Rouge Parish

In addition to the monthly Louisiana cohort meetings, the two national workshop portions of the fellowship give state educators the opportunity to collaborate not only with other educators, wherein great strategies, ideas, and materials are shared, but they will also be networking with other human capital professionals from across the U.S, learning the best, tested practices for attracting and keeping effective teachers. While this year the national workshops will be delivered virtually, the national arm of the fellowship plans to focus on how exactly school systems can adjust their recruitment and retention strategic plans during the pandemic.

At their planned monthly meetings, the Louisiana cohort will map out what Louisiana-specific challenges in relation to teacher recruitment and retention are unique to the state, allowing leaders to explore innovative solutions and how best to implement them. Already, the Louisiana human capital leaders have requested the following strategies they would be eager to explore:

  • Building teacher communities across parish lines in order to support educator development and retention.
  • Implementing a structure to share teachers across parish lines, especially in the vital subject areas, such as Advanced Math and Science.
  • Introducing a common interview process for teachers across parish lines.

In Dr. Brumley’s 100 Day Report, the need for an enhanced teacher recruitment and retention program in Louisiana was outlined, and it’s much-needed due to the fact that over have of the Louisiana teachers leaving the profession do so within their first ten years in the classroom. Subjects outlined as having the largest-need areas for teachers are math and science, yet only 8 percent of all program completers earned their teaching certification in math and only 7 percent earned it in science. Needless to say, this fellowship is a refreshing take on a vital challenge facing Louisiana school systems.

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Louisiana’s Jump Start 2.0 Program

The Department of Education just released a blueprint for public feedback on the Jump Start 2.0 program. Louisiana is taking a step forward to reduce the negative connotations surrounding career and technical education and making sure those with a Career Diploma are ready to enter high-wage career sectors. In a blueprint titled Jump Start 2.0, the state is attempting to further its nationally recognized program Jump Start created in 2014.

The Jump Start program “prepares students to lead productive adult lives, capable of continuing their education after high school.” Students leave the program with a Career Diploma- signifying the students obtained industry mandated and valued credentials. With this program, students are able to leave high school with the ability to secure a high-wage or high-demand career. Jump Start is also an elective path which can be taken by students wanting to further their education.

Before the initiation of Jump Start, less than two percent of Louisiana’s students graduated with a Career Diploma. In 2018, over 90,000 students graduated high school with a Career Diploma- a drastic increase from 2014’s 17,885 students.

With the initiation of Jump Start 2.0, the program will grow even further. The blueprint signifies that:

  1. Every student that graduates with a Career Diploma will show they can succeed in the workplace- fully prepared to work in a high-wage, high-growth industry. The program will increase its workplace learning, prioritize the most valuable opportunities, and better align its 51 possible pathways to career clusters.
  2. Every state resident will know the Jump Start career path as well as the TOPS program. The program will do this by celebrating successful Jump Start graduates, launching an interactive website for students and families, and investing in further professional development for its career and technical education leaders.
  3. Community leaders will create various systems to conjoin education and employment throughout Louisiana without the state interfering. Jump Start will do this by creating new governance structures and supporting ideals that take the experience past high school graduation.

The Louisiana Department of Education released the new blueprint initiative after the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) instructed the Department to assess how the Jump Start program offerings aligned with the workforce needs of the state. The Department of Education released a report which stated that while students were gaining more credentials, but not receiving the experience necessary for the high-wage, high-demand jobs available in the region. Of the top 15 industry-based credentials earned, only three were truly aligned with regional needs.

As a way to improve, the Department of Education paired with not only education leaders, but also business leaders across the state to create a more comprehensive blueprint for Jump Start 2.0. The Department then turned to state residents interested in career and technical education in Louisiana. The public feedback form closed March 15.

The Department of Education will now evaluate the feedback to improve the blueprint and share it at the April 2019 BESE meeting. All changes to the program will be carried out keeping in mind the needs and commitments of participating schools, students, and school systems. Some of the changes may be enforced as soon as the 2019-2020 school year.

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LDOE Begins New Career Option Course

The LDOE has recently announced, “select school systems across the state are piloting a new course designed to help ensure all students are prepared for success following high school graduation. The course, called Quest for Success, allows middle and high school students to develop essential workplace skills, explore various careers and industry sectors, and learn about themselves and their interests in order to successfully navigate high school, post-secondary education and career pathways”.

The article explains, “the ultimate indication of our students’ career readiness and our effectiveness in preparing them is the success they find after they leave us–the extent to which they are employed in jobs they enjoy and that allow them to earn a good living, support their families and meaningfully contribute to their communities,” said State Superintendent John White. “These are bold ambitions that will require families, educators and industry leaders to work together, but the implementation of Quest for Success, first through the pilot schools and then statewide, is a step in the right direction.”

Quest for Success, which replaces the current course called Journey to Careers, was written by 22 educators as part of their participation in the Louisiana Educator Voice Fellowship. The fellowship, a partnership between the Louisiana Department of Education and national nonprofit organization America Achieves, supports the state’s comprehensive effort to improve career readiness, which includes its Jump Start program.

Quest for Success is now being piloted in 38 school systems, and only teachers in those school systems who completed a specialized training are allowed to lead the course this year. Throughout the 2018-2019 school year, the course will be studied and revised based on teacher and student input, and a formal evaluation will be conducted at the year’s end.

For the full article and more information on the release of Quest for Success, click here.

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Program Launches for Teacher to Advocate for Education Initiative

The Louisiana Department of Education has developed a new program that would allow one teacher to take a year off to go around the State advocating for the education initiative of their choosing.  The teacher that will be chosen will come from nominees for Louisiana Teacher of the Year from the previous year. The fellowship was announced at the 12th Annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Awards Gala, and was awarded to 2018 Louisiana Teacher of the Year Kimberly Eckert, who will continue her efforts to recruit and train the next generation of Louisiana educators.

Eckert, who is an English teacher at Brusly High School in West Baton Rouge Parish, spent some of her time as 2018 Louisiana Teacher of the Year recruiting new educators and elevating the teaching profession. She will continue this work by focusing her fellowship on pioneering the national “Educators Rising” program in Louisiana. The program identifies young people, starting with high school students, interested in teaching and provides them with the information, skills and hands-on experience to become successful educators.

The fellowship is supported by a $50,000 stipend of state funding that is paid directly to the recipient’s school system. It allows the teacher to take a year-long sabbatical and may be used to help pay for their substitute, travel costs, and any other expenses incurred during the advocation period by the recipient.

“Louisiana has taken the Teacher of the Year award and turned it into a true leadership opportunity. Our winners and finalists are scholars, spokespeople, mentors,” said State Superintendent John White. “We need to be doing more to nourish and support them in realizing their leadership potential.”

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