RSD SET TO TURN AROUND LOWEST PERFORMING SCHOOLS IN EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH

Apr 26, 2012

District Announces Launch of Baton Rouge Achievement Zone with Entergy, LSU, Southern, 
BRCC, BRAC, LFCC, New Schools Baton Rouge, and Other Partners

Baton Rouge, La. - Today, the Recovery School District (RSD), along with several key Baton Rouge business and industry partners, educational leaders and community and non-profit organizations, announced the launch of the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone (BRAZ), an innovative reform model to address the needs of children currently attending low-performing schools in the parish by working collaboratively with parents and engaging community and business partners. The BRAZ, which will impact five local schools and approximately 10,000 students, will have a significant impact on turning around student learning and achievement. Each of the five schools in The Zone failed to meet the state’s minimum School Performance Score and thus earned the Academically Unacceptable label for at least three years.

Joining the RSD during the announcement to lead the innovative approach to transform schools in the Baton Rouge community were the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, Entergy, Louisiana State University, Southern University, Baton Rouge Community College (BRCC), Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC), Capital Area United Way, Living Faith Christian Center (LFCC), New Schools Baton Rouge, Teach For America, Education’s Next Horizon, Object 9, and the Urban League of New Orleans.

The five schools participating in the initial launch of the Achievement Zone are Istrouma High School, Capitol High School, Glen Oaks Middle School, Dalton Elementary School and Lanier Elementary School.

Entergy, a leading partner in the effort, helped lay the framework for the Achievement Zone concept last year when they established a shared model where educational attainment is promoted through a holistic approach of schools, business, community and parents working together.

"We are pleased to have Entergy and our other partners join us to announce the launch of the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone. Our goal is to help turn around failing schools and provide the best opportunities for student achievement and success," said RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard. "The RSD has done an exceptional job in New Orleans of providing both the autonomy and accountability needed by schools to help address the needs of students. We look forward to using these same strategies in Baton Rouge to place students on a sustainable path to be both college and career ready." 

"The expansion of the Istrouma School Zone into the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone is a milestone in our ongoing commitment to the communities where we live and work," said Steven Scheurich, vice president of customer service and external affairs for Entergy’s Louisiana utilities. "Since our launch last fall we’ve proven that partnerships between business, community and education leaders can result in positive outcomes for children, providing much needed resources for schools and rich experiences for students to help prepare them to be effective employees and lead productive, healthy lives."

"In partnership with the RSD, we are committed to continuing our work with Istrouma," Scheurich added, "and look forward to expanding the initiative and working hand-in-hand with more partners, schools and communities to create brighter futures for children within the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone."

Presently, nearly half of students attending public schools in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System are performing below grade level.  Forty-five percent of these students attend schools in a contiguous three zip code area of North Baton Rouge, comprising nearly 10,000 students. 

The Baton Rouge Achievement Zone is focused on addressing the needs of the 10,000 students to ensure their overall success and to guarantee that every child will be college and/or career ready upon graduation. The BRAZ will focus on three core principles - engaging partnerships to anchor strategic school reform in Greater Baton Rouge, building the demand from parents, community, and government for higher school accountability and better school choices; accelerating the launch of excellent new schools through smart philanthropy and collaboration with government to meet transformation and innovation needs; and creating a reform marketplace that fosters competition, builds entrepreneurial capacity, and provides high quality options for school support organizations and services.

Initially, the RSD will direct-run the five schools before converting them to Type 5 charters or empowered schools.  

Empowered schools are a management strategy that can be implemented under any governance structure.  As empowered schools, school leaders are given more autonomy, direct control over hiring and firing, as well as the ability to offer different curriculum implementation strategies than currently offered in a regular school setting.  The empowered schools will be managed by the RSD.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools governed by their own boards of directors. And while charter schools are free from some of the regulations governing traditional public schools, charter schools are held accountable for student achievement and other results and are required to participate in the state’s accountability system, abide by curriculum requirements, and ensure the qualifications of instructional staff.

The proposed timeline for the charter conversion is as follows:

  • April 2012 - The RSD will determine what direct-run and Memorandum of Understanding/Management Agreement schools will be converted to empowered schools for the 2012-2013 school year, based on need and capacity.
  • August 2012 - The first RSD empowered schools will open. The RSD will continue to oversee/operate schools that are not yet converted to empowered status.
  • Spring 2013 - The RSD will determine which schools to convert to empowered schools for fall 2013. All other remaining schools will be eligible to be chartered for fall 2013.

The Louisiana Department of Education will release the 2012 Call for Quality Schools Request for Applications (RFA) on Friday, April 27. Charter Management Organizations can apply to run a charter in the Achievement Zone upon release of the RFA. The RSD’s goal for their five schools in the RFA is to have them chartered in 2013.

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu said "The Baton Rouge Achievement Zone marks a commitment to bold reform in our state’s capital. Too many schools in North Baton Rouge are not providing their students with the education they deserve. By creating a Baton Rouge Achievement Zone, the Recovery School District is launching a transformative effort to turn around the concentration of failing schools in this community. I applaud the RSD for building on lessons learned from the turnaround efforts underway in New Orleans while also reaching out to community stakeholders to learn how to tailor their reform approach for North Baton Rouge."

The model for the participating schools will be based on the successes and lessons learned by the Recovery School District in implementing the nation’s largest and most successful charter-based school operation, just 90 minutes away from Baton Rouge, in New Orleans.

The RSD’s model in New Orleans has been based on providing school-level leadership with maximum autonomy to make decisions, along with assigned clear and measurable accountability standards.

To date, the RSD has seen notable progress in the charter schools in New Orleans. 

  • RSD charter schools saw tremendous student progress since 2007, increasing their average School Performance Score from 52 to 78.
  • Students in all RSD schools saw proficiency on state standardized tests rise from 23 percent to 48 percent in 2011, the fastest rate of progress in Louisiana.
  • By 2011, 36 percent of special education students in RSD schools were performing at grade level, an increase from 11 percent in 2005.
  • African-American students in New Orleans now out-perform African-American students statewide.

Partners participating in the Achievement Zone offered their support and endorsement of the creative and innovative approach of working with community partners to address school needs.

"The new LSU College of Human Science and Education is looking forward to a partnership that will lead to improving the learning environment and educational support and opportunities in the Achievement Zone. Our faculty is dedicated to helping children and families receive the support and guidance they need to succeed in school and to open doors to careers and post-graduate education," said Laura Lindsey, dean of the LSU College of Human Science and Education.

"Southern University welcomes the opportunity to continue doing what we do best, taking students from where they are scholastically and then moving them to where they ought to be," said Southern University Chancellor James L. Llorens. "Southern University, our College of Education and School of Nursing will dedicate all of the resources available to address the variables impacting student achievement."

"Baton Rouge Community College has always viewed the pursuit of excellence as a community effort," said BRCC Chancellor Andrea Lewis Miller. "We are excited at this chance to expand our work with our regional partners to provide quality education and equal access to opportunities for all citizens of our global community."

"The proposal to form a Baton Rouge Achievement Zone is an exciting opportunity to create a national best practice for education in North Baton Rouge," said Adam Knapp, President and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. "School turnaround is challenging; for the families that might be touched by this zone, it represents hope for better education for their children. BRAC looks forward to a positive dialogue between EBR Schools and the State in pursuing this exciting partnership."

"Today is an opportunity to reveal the success potential that has always existed in our young people. If we make them our focus then the outcome will be a win for all in our communities," said Bishop Raymond Johnson of Living Faith Christian Center.

"New Schools for Baton Rouge is being launched to support the work of East Baton Rouge and the Recovery School District in creating excellent schools for all students in north Baton Rouge. We must create new partnerships if we are to realize the goal that each and every one of the 10,000 scholars attending school in the Achievement Zone have access to an excellent school where he or she is on track for college and career success," said Chris Meyer, Founder and CEO, New Schools Baton Rouge.

"Teach For America is proud to be a partner in the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone," said Michael Tipton, executive director of Teach For America in South Louisiana. "This community-wide partnership marks an important investment in our children’s future and we’re excited to take steps towards ensuring that one day soon, every child in our community has the excellent education they deserve."

The RSD welcomes partners to join the new Rouge Achievement Zone initiative. To inquire about becoming a partner, contact RSD-LA Chief of Staff Nikki Diamantes at nikki.diamantes@rsdla.net.

For more information about the Recovery School District, visit www.rsdla.net



# # #