Likewise,Dr. James Meza and the Jefferson Parish School Board are embracing the critical strategies we've put forth in our Louisiana Believes framework. In fact, the district is participating in all four of the state's pilot programs, including Compass, Value-Added, Student-Based Budgeting, and Trailblazers. And with a three-point bump this year, Jefferson Parish is tied for 8th in the state for its 13-point combined increase, from 51 percent in 2007 to 64 percent in 2012.
In fact, based on increases in the percentage of students at grade level, nine of the 16 highest performing districts are participating in one or more of these pilot programs, demonstrating that educators who are embracing proven reforms are making improvements that are benefitting our students and families.
I also want to thank you for your participation in the Louisiana Believes Town Halls, which were held online and across the state during May. It was very useful to hear your feedback. And we will incorporate suggestions into the final form of our plan, which we will release in June.
U.S. Department of Education Approves Louisiana's Waiver Application
Louisiana Believes is based on the idea that if you believe in all children can achieve at high levels, you must too believe in the adults closest to them. This means empowering parents, educators, and administrators with flexibility to make choices that are in the best of children, rather than relying on rules and bureaucracy.Today, a key component of the state's plan, Louisiana's Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver application, won approval from the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE).
Louisiana was one of eight states to get the go ahead today in Round Two of the waiver request. The federal waivers allow districts and schools to exercise flexibility from federal ESEA regulations, in exchange for instituting rigorous accountability systems.
In recent months, Louisiana parents have gained greater power to choose, by virtue of Act 2. Similarly, the state has ended the practice of prescribing daily teaching activities and textbook choices for schools. And, by virtue of Act 1, principals and superintendents now have legal empowerment to make choices about who is best to serve in their classrooms. The approved waiver application will grant superintendents and principals similar levels of autonomy over the use of $375 million in federal funding - dollars historically tied up in government mandates and regulations.
The accountability system, to be proposed for adoption by BESE this June, has three objectives:
- Align Louisiana expectations with Common Core levels of rigor. Points will be awarded for ACT and AP excellence, while points will not be awarded for students below grade level.
- Reward the gains schools have already achieved. The model proposed is not intended to change the letter grades schools would have achieved at their current level of performance.
- Reward schools for making progress with students who are below grade level. A value-added measure will be added to the school performance score.
Schools and districts will now have flexibility in the following areas:
- Title I funding, including Supplemental Education Services (SES)
- Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) funding
- 21st Century funding
- School Improvement Planning (This will end.)
- Highly Qualified Teacher Target Improvement Planning (This will end.)
But most important, this approved waiver allows Louisiana to chart its own path toward achieving Common Core rigor while removing restrictions that too often distract educators from educating. It empowers the professionals closest to children to reach ambitious outcomes. I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do.
Again, thank you for all you do for our children,