Nov 28, 2012
Charters and Course Choice Offer Multiple Pathways to Prepare for College and Careers

BATON ROUGE, La. – The Louisiana Department of Education today released recommendations to expand college and career preparation options for students across the state, in both urban and rural settings. The Department is recommending approval of 11 new charter schools, including six start-up charter schools, and 45 providers for Course Choice, a statewide program that offers individual courses to prepare students for college or for careers. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) will consider the applications at their meeting next Wednesday.

“Because of landmark legislation enacted earlier this year, more Louisiana families have the ability to choose the school and course that will prepare their children for college and careers,” said State Superintendent of Education John White. “Thanks to Louisiana-based educators, businesses, and communities, families now have more options to exercise that choice.”

“I am proud of the many Louisiana community leaders and entrepreneurs who are stepping up to improve the quality of education for our students,” said Penny Dastugue, President of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Together, I am confident we are providing families with multiple high-quality options for keeping students on the path to success in life after high school.”

This year, 104 charter schools are educating nearly 57,000 students in Louisiana. From 2011 to 2012, charter schools outpaced district schools in raising student achievement, gaining an average of 6.14 points compared to an average of 4.7 points for district-run schools. If approved, the new charter schools will serve students in Bogalusa, Calcascieu, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Madison and Orleans. Charter schools are public schools that are governed by a board of directors comprised of local leaders and educators.

Course Choice will offer a diverse mix of college-preparatory and career training courses. Under the program, students will be able to enroll in publicly-funded courses to earn college credit, obtain industry-based certification and gain relevant, real-life work experience through internships and apprenticeships. More than half of the recommended course providers have roots in Louisiana. Of the 45 recommended course providers, 20 offer virtual courses, 13 offer face-to-face courses and 12 offer hybrid courses that combine virtual and face-to-face instruction. Students will be able to choose from 13 providers of career and technical education and 13 providers of Advanced Placement courses.

Louisiana received 94 applications from course providers to offer courses through this innovative new program, which was established by Act 2 of the 2012 Regular Legislative Session. The 45 applicants that will be presented to BESE underwent an intensive review with multiple levels of due diligence. In the first round of the process, the Department ensured providers had quality content, instruction and accountability, demonstrated a sound enterprise model, and offered accommodations for students with disabilities. The second round of evaluation included a background check, a more rigorous review of each applicant’s course offerings and interviews by a panel of Department content experts.  Applicants designated to “Proceed” after the Interview process faced a third evaluation round by a panel of independent reviewers.  BESE will authorize Course Choice providers for three-year terms, re-authorizing only those that demonstrate high levels of student achievement.  The Department will also monitor course provider performance regularly and will provide annual reports on performance to BESE. No such accountability has existed on a course-by-course basis in Louisiana prior to the advent of Course Choice.

To focus providers on student achievement, they will be paid in installments – 50% when students enroll and 50% when students successfully complete the course on time. Prioritizing completion, providers receive a second installment of only 40% for students who complete the course late.

In January, the Department will publish a Course Choice Course Catalog, enabling students and their families to “shop” for the academic and career training courses, both virtually and in their community, that best suit their needs and interests.

Starting in March, students will be able to enroll in courses for the 2013-2014 school year.