Feb 06, 2013

BATON ROUGE, La. – Today, State Superintendent of Education John White visited Ouachita Parish to present Superintendent Dr. Robert Webber with a check for $150,000 as part of the Department’s Believe and Include grant initiative.  The Department is funding the $4 million dollar grant program through the repurposing of existing federal funding for projects through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and returning the money to schools to spur innovation that will directly impact student achievement for students with special needs.

“If we are going to believe all children can learn, then we must also believe that students with special needs can achieve at higher levels,” State Superintendent of Education John White said.  “This initiative is about finding innovative ways to not only include our students with disabilities but to create better learning environments for them to achieve higher outcomes.”

Richwood Middle School, Riser Middle School and Ouachita Junior High School are partnering together to increase the academic performance of students with disabilities in English Language Arts and math.  The grant will be used to fund the Zap the Gap program     which aims to increase reading and math performance in students with disabilities through a summer program at two schools and a Saturday program at the third.  Zap the Gap is a technology driven service facilitating the use of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and extended school time to enable students with disabilities to experience success on assessments for the Common Core State Standards.  The program will support the use of interactive and integrative software and hardware that will enable students and parents to have greater access to the curriculum and educational materials.

In addition, Supt. White took the opportunity to celebrate student achievement in Ouachita Parish.  For the 2011-2012 school year, 19 Ouachita Parish schools earned the Top Gains School designation.  Supt. White presented the district with a check in the amount of $160,623.15 as a reward for increasing student achievement.

About Believe and Include
Sixteen districts or charter organizations, representing 85 schools, will benefit from grants as part of the Department’s Believe and Include initiative to develop innovative programs that help students with disabilities achieve proficiency of the more rigorous Common Core State Standards.  Believe and Include represents an effort to drive achievement by empowering district leaders, school leaders, and special education teachers to pursue innovation in special education in our state. 

About Top Gains Schools
This year 440 schools in the state earned the Top Gains School designation. Top Gains Schools improved their School Performance Score by or beyond a pre-determined growth target, from 2 to 10 points, and will receive $8,453 each for educational purposes within the school.

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