Louisiana Teachers Gather for Annual Summit

The Louisiana Department of Education held the 7th Teacher Leader Summit on Wednesday, June 26th through Friday, June 28th, 2019. More than 6,500 Louisiana teachers and educators, representing almost every school system in the state, gathered at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. This annual Summit was created in response to teachers who thought classroom educators should have a larger voice in statewide academic decisions.At the first statewide summit in April 2013, there were 2,000 teachers in attendance. Since then, the number of participating teachers has tripled with an approximated 6,500 teachers in attendance this year. They have since branched out to a blend of year-round-in-person and online trainings to expand the opportunities available to Teacher Leaders.

From Wednesday through Friday, these over 6,000educators spent their time at the Summit attending and conducting professional development training workshops, collaborating with one another as peers, and learning how they can best play active roles in shaping the future of up-and-coming Louisiana minds and the future of education in Louisiana. The collection of training and workshop topics vary from early childhood development and education to school improvement and Louisiana’s innovative assessment pilot, which was enacted to study how the state tackles issues of school accountability, student assessment, data transparency, and school improvement. In addition to these workshops led by Teacher Leaders, the Summit will host “Ed Talks,” which is a speaker series that featured the six national education leaders.

The 7th Teacher Leader Summit ushered in preparations for the 2019-2020 school year and those to follow. The summit overview listed its objectives as follows:

“This year’s event will equip educators in every level of the system with tools and training that provide all students the opportunity to:

  • Build knowledge of the world
  • Read meaningful texts
  • Express ideas through writing and speaking
  • Solve complex math problems
  • Attend a school that treats them with dignity and respect”

The State Superintendent John White stated, “Louisiana has a longstanding commitment to raising the bar, and as a result, more students than ever before are graduating in four years, earning college and career credentials, achieving eligibility for TOPS scholarships, and pursuing post-secondary education and training.” State Superintendent White continued, “During the 7th annual Teacher Leader Summit, we will celebrate those hard-earned gains, but more importantly, we will focus on how our collaborative efforts can make those opportunities accessible to all students, including our most vulnerable.”

Students from The Performing Arts Academy of St. Bernard Parish performed in the convention center’s theater for the inauguration of the event. Superintendent White addressed the current state of education in Louisiana and outlined the academic strategy moving forward into the future. The 2018 Louisiana Teacher of the Year and recipient of the inaugural Louisiana Public Interest Fellowship, Kimberly Eckert, announced the winner of the Fellowship for the 2019-2020 school year. Lastly, South Lafourche High School was honored with the title of 2019 Louisiana Teacher Leader Summit Premier School.

Watch a stream of the opening ceremony here.

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Nicholls State Education Degree Ranks High

Nicholls State University is one of the top schools in the nation for those looking to make an impact in the classroom by pursuing a degree in education by online educational resource Study.com.

Study.com listed Thibodaux’s Nicholls State University at number 45 on their list. They took into account statistics from the United States Department of Education, evaluated reviews by students. The list takes into account accessibility, affordability, and the quality of education. They did this by looking at each individual school’s tuition cost, financial aid, admittance rates, educational support and resources, retention rates, graduation rates, student-faculty ratio, career resources and job placement.

Nicholls was the only college in Louisiana to make the list.

The website emphasized the faculty in the Nicholls Department of Education and Behavioral Science and their desire to not only inspire their students but also encourage student engagement. The professors are not only committed to teaching their students, but also emphasizing community service, professional service, and student research.

Study.com also shone a spotlight on the many extracurricular activities for education majors, shining a spotlight on NEAT- the Nicholls Education Association of Teachers. NEAT describes itself as “a university organization that provides opportunities for candidates in the College of Education to serve the university as well as the community.”

Education majors at Nicholls are also often recipients of various scholarships, most notably the Camille Hebert Memorial Scholarship In Education and the Braxton Hebert Memorial Scholarship In Education. Those are only two of the fifteen scholarships offered for students pursuing teacher education.

In addition to students having the opportunity to grow professionally through organizations and offering numerous ways to increase affordability, Nicholls also offers numerous undergraduate programs and certifications including Art Education, Elementary Education (grades 1-5), Music Education, and more. The college also has graduate programs including Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Educational Leadership.

Study.com was founded in 2004 with a mission of offering a quality education that is as accessible as possible. They reach approximately 15 million students a month and is self-funded. They offer a video-based curriculum that consists of over 10,000 lessons.

Nicholls alumni comprise approximately 80 percent of the teachers in the Bayou Region and 90 percent of teachers names Lafourche Parish Teacher of the Year within the last five years.

The Nicholls College of Education and Behavioral Sciences operates under the phrase “Responsible Leaders Engaging in Professional Practice”. They are accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation for Teacher Education, the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, and the Nation Association of School Psychologists.

The College of Education and Behavioral Science states their mission as follows:

The College of Education and Behavioral Sciences is dedicated to preparing high quality teachers, educational leaders, school and psychological counselors, school psychologists and human service professionals who effectively meet the diverse needs of Louisiana and the global community.

With the amount of alumni that go back into the community and not only teach, but also direct after school programs, work for the school district, and work for local community centers, it is safe to say that they not only succeed but exceed and shine in their fields.

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Legislative Achievements for Education

Recently Louisiana has taken a huge step in furthering the education of the students in its state. Louisiana Believes outlines the achievements made for the education of Louisiana’s students. The class of 2018 achieved the highest graduation outcome, the highest in Louisiana’s history to be exact.  All of the hard work paid off and it showed at the Louisiana 2019 Regular Legislative Session.  John White, the State Superintendent of Education, released a statement starting off with, “It is a good legislative session when our state invests in our schools and when our schools demonstrate such academic returns on that investment.”

Not only did classes prove that education is worth investing in, but they helped state leaders improve even more. The pay for all public school teachers will be raised by $1,000. Teachers are not the only employees receiving a raise, school support personnel’s pay will also increase by $500.

$39 million was added to the education funding formula. This will provide the support that is always needed for public schools to operate. This will also be helpful to the employees that run the schools. $20 was dedicated to early childhood education. This is to help prevent pre-kindergarten programs and services from decreasing due to federal funds not being available. This money will also be used to help increase available slots in childcare for families that are working and low income.

High school students will also be supported. While enrolled in high school they will be able to earn college credits, helping them to further their education after graduation. This will also help high schoolers earn industry credentials for the workforce that can be used after graduation. Task forces will be created to help each of these efforts.

The Class of 2018 showed that investing in education is worth it. John White’s official statement said:

“It is a good legislative session when our state invests in our schools and when our schools demonstrate such exceptional academic returns on that investment. In recent weeks, our state announced that more students than ever before are graduating from high school, earning early college credit and industry-based credentials, achieving eligibility for TOPS, and enrolling in college.  As the session comes to a close, I applaud the Governor, lawmakers, and BESE for continuing that progress, and for heeding the voices of families and educators across our state.”

The 2019 Regular Legislative Session started on Monday, April 8, 2019 and adjourned Thursday, June 6, 2019. Education was not the only group to receive more financial help. District attorneys, assistant district attorneys, and judges pay was boosted. Also, a new law now allows young adults to stay within the foster care system until they turn 21. Services have only been given to those young adults in foster care until they graduate from highschool. Before that, young adult would be kicked out of foster care once they turn 18, even if they are not done with foster care.

Louisiana’s foster care system has not been invested in the past. Within 2 years of being in the system, one in five young adults end up homeless. One fourth of the young adults in the foster care system were in prison, a 2017 report shows. The report came from the Louisiana State Task Force on Youth Aging Out of Foster Care.

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College Enrollment in Louisiana at a High

Louisiana Believes posted an article expanding on the achievements of the Class of 2018. The number of Louisiana graduates seeking college enrollment has climbed to an all-time high.

The Louisiana Department of Education and the Louisiana Board of Regents have partnered up to announce that over 25,000 high school graduates (the Class of 2018) in the public school system were enrolled into higher education right after their graduation. This is over 4,000 more than the Class of 2012, that is an increase of 23 percent.

Not only are students pursuing a higher education, they are also using their resources like TOPS to get financial help. TOPS stands for the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students. It is a “program of state scholarships for Louisiana residents who attend either one of the Louisiana Public Colleges and Universities, schools that are a part of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System or institutions that are a part of the Louisiana Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.”

Over half of this growth is due to the increasing amount of African-American students furthering their education after high school and seeking college enrollment. More than 2,500 more African-American students enrolled in some form of higher education than the students that graduated in 2012. Commissioner of Higher Education,  Kim Hunter Reed made a statement,  “We are delighted to applaud this good news because we know what it means for our students. In today’s rapidly changing economy a high school diploma is no longer enough.”

The statewide graduation results came in for the Class of 2018, showing that Louisiana achieved its highest cohort in its history. Not only did it show that more students were furthering their education, it also showed that the rate for students who errands “early-college credit” also rose, Even just the amount of students graduating increased. Here are other highlights of the Class of 2018:

  • The amount of students seeking college enrollment in an out-of-state school has slightly risen. 88 percent for instate and 12 percent for out-of-state. In 2017, it was 89 percent in state and 11 percent out-of-state.
  • The amount of students who enrolled in a two year program vs a four year program stayed the same. For the Class of 2018, 71 percent were enrolled in four year colleges and 29 percent were enrolled in two year programs.
  • Over twenty school systems beat the record. The top three school systems were St. James, Zachary, and West Feliciana parishes.

Here is a list of things Louisiana is doing to try and raise the college enrollment:

  • Offering students dual enrollment, helping them obtain college credits while taking courses in high school.
  • Diversified and expanded Jump Start; a program helping students adjust to the workplace and career courses.
  • It is required for students to choose if they want to complete the financial aid forms that would help fund furthering their education.
  • The state has an accountability system that measures schools to see if they equip students for furthering their education.
  • Every 11th grade student has access to the ACT. No matter their background or even their financial status.

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Jump Start Summers-LA Education

Following a vote by The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), the Jump Start Summers program has been approved for expansion. Consequently, over 3,000 high school students will be able to utilize their summer break to earn school credits, take place in workplace-focused learning, and gain business experience, while simultaneously earning an income. For completed sessions, students receive a stipend which averages at $690. In regard to the Jump Start Summers program, John White, the State Superintendent, stated, “Workplace-based learning provides an unparalleled opportunity for students to master essential workplace skills, while making their academic school work more relevant. This is true for all students – those who are university-bound, as well as those who are career-focused.”

Jump Start Summers was created in 2017 with the intention of connecting school systems and business leaders to positively impact students and prepare them for the workforce via shadowing and internships. Along with school credits and work knowledge, participants will also develop important life skills such as communication, time-management, and the ability to efficiently work in a team – all of which are crucial for career-building. Jody Purvis, a supervisor of instruction for Livingston Parish Public Schools remarked, “The Jump Start Summers program offers our students a great opportunity to explore their interests in a career and technical education course that they may not be able to fit into their regular class schedule. Students can use these classes to advance their certifications and experience toward an industry-based diploma, or they can simply gain valuable life skills.”

During the program’s first two years, 1,792 students participated through 48 providers. Cumulatively, the finishing students earned 1,676 school credits and 1,998 business credentials. Following the vote to expand Jump Start Summers, 15 more providers were approved, bringing the number of offered programs to 166. These programs are affiliated with high-demand job areas, including drone operation, mechanical repair, business, construction, culinary arts, health care, IT, manufacturing, and hospitality. Software engineer specialist Rose Espiritu of General Electric Power maintains that “the cutting-edge skills, knowledge, and real-world experience” earned by students via the Jump Start Summers Program are pivotal to the initial entrance to these “high-demand career pathways.”

The Louisiana Department of Education released a blueprint called Jump Start 2.0 to gain public feedback. In the blueprint, the intentions of the Jump Start Summers Program are outlined. The outline affirms that Jump Start Summers will “catalyze a new era of learning.” This entails that all Jump Start Career Diploma student will graduate high school with workplace experience which will prepare them for work in high-growth industries. The blueprint also expresses the intention for Louisianans to be as familiar and fond of the Jump Start Career Diploma plan as they are with the TOPS University path. They will achieve this by “actively celebrating students and schools seeing success” from the Jump Start Summers program in its current, emerging stage. Finally, Jump Start 2.0 aspires for leaders in various communities in Louisiana to create systems that connect education and employment with no state intervention. To achieve this, regional teams supervising Jump Start Summers will increase their efficiency, and Jump Start will work to expand activities to age groups beyond the 12th grade.

Students who wish to inquire about participating in Jump Start Summers should contact the leaders of their schools for additional information on the program.

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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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