Louisiana Federation of Teachers
BESE okays plan for teacher internships
A plan to reconfigure teacher preparation in Louisiana was unanimously approved by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education following a close favorable vote by the board’s Teacher Effectiveness Committee.
That committee had split six to five after a coalition of stakeholders expressed concerns about future funding for the plan. LFT was joined in opposition by the LAE and organizations representing school boards, superintendents and principals.
LFT Interim President Larry Carter told BESE members that the Federation supports the concept of the new plan, which calls for a one-year residency for prospective teachers who earn their certification in one of the state’s colleges of education.
But Carter, along with other stakeholders, pointed out that a federal grant to support the program will only last a few years, after which it is unclear how the program will be funded. Prospective teachers and mentors would both be paid to participate in the year-long residency.
Superintendent of Education John White said that it will take another year to develop a rating system to gauge the effectiveness of the program, leading critics to ask whether it would be wiser to have that framework in place before launching the full-bore program.
Carter also said the plan conflicts with state rules allowing teachers to earn alternate certifications.
“This is setting up a two-tiered system of teacher preparation for our schools,” Carter said. “Those who attend a state college of education will have done all of the rigorous preparation, while teachers hired from alternative certification tracks might not be as prepared.”
One such program, Teach for America, recruits recent college graduates and provides them with certification after several weeks of summer training.
In a separate vote, BESE agreed to provide TFA with $500,000 to recruit and place teachers in Louisiana schools. To many in the room, that seemed to undercut the new state teacher training program.
Panel grapples with grades for alternative schools
Superintendent of Education John White agreed with critics who say that alternative schools should not be evaluated in the same way as regular schools.
His concession came during a committee discussion of the annual approval of alternative programs and schools. Federal regulations require BESE to evaluate all schools, White said. Alternative schools are graded on the same A-F scale as regular schools.
But BESE Member Doris Voitier, who is superintendent of schools in St. Bernard Parish, said that because alternative schools often enroll students who have been expelled from other schools, or who are well over the usual graduation age, they often get “F” grades.
White agreed that “alternative schools shouldn’t be graded in the same manner as regular schools.”
An advocate for special needs students said that BESE should be careful when setting different accountability standards for schools.
“Accountability, said Shawn Fleming, should “measure how well schools serve every student who walks in that door.”
This school year, districts have requested approval of 33 alternative schools and 136 alternative programs. Alternative schools have a separate site code and enroll some or all students for 45 or more days. Alternative programs are those that provide education to suspended or expelled students who remain at the sending school.
The issue came up during the last legislative session. A bill was introduced that would have prohibited any district that included an “F” graded school from having an “A” rating as a district. The bill failed, largely because of the “F” grades assigned to some alternative schools in successful districts.
Schools balk at requiring two test administrators
A proposed change to testing requirements met some opposition and was referred to the Parish Superintendents Advisory Commission for further study.
The change would have required two test administrators to be present when statewide tests are administered, “to the extent practicable.”
BESE’s Academic Goals and Instructional Improvement Committee heard an objection from superintendents and school boards because of concerns over the cost, especially in smaller school systems.
Charter authorizers removed from bulletin
As directed by the legislature in the last session, BESE acted to remove so-called “local charter authorizers” from Bulletin 126, which concerns charter schools.
Act 497 of 2016 was authored by Sen. Blade Morrish (R-Jennings). It removed local charter authorizers from Act 2 of 2012. The act allowed BESE to approve as many as 40 local charter authorizers in the state’s 11 regional labor markets. With minimal oversight, the LCAs would each have been required to authorize at least five charter schools, which if successful could then create two more charter schools without further approval. There could eventually have been more than 600 of the schools operating without authority from either BESE or local school boards.
Act 497 was one of the legislative victories that signaled a retreat from the Jindal administration’s assault on traditional public education.
BESE pushed to review Type 2 charter applications
When BESE reviews applications for charter schools in December, members will be reminded of a legislative resolution asking for financial impact statements prior to authorizing new Type 2 charter schools.
A Type 2 charter is a school that has been rejected by a local school board, but the local decision is then overruled by BESE.
The creation of Type 2 charters has been a sore point with local school boards because they are seen as interference by the state board.
In the last legislative session, the senate approved SR 180 by Sen. Regina Barrow (D-Baton Rouge). The resolution requests BESE to conduct a financial impact study to determine the effect granting a Type 2 charter would have on the local school system.
The resolution also asks BESE to allow stakeholders to present testimony about the fiscal impact that a proposed Type 2 charter school would have on the resources of the local system.
The resolution does not have the force of law, but failing to heed the request could sour relations between the senate and the state education board.
Louisiana School Boards Association Executive Director Scott Richard reminded BESE members of the resolution, and asked them to comply when charter authorizations are considered at the December meeting.