Aug 01, 2013

Strategy Expands Proven Charter Schools and Innovative Traditional District Schools

BATON ROUGE, La. - The Louisiana Department of Education today announced its most aggressive statewide push ever to turnaround low performing schools, providing grants to individuals, school districts, and charter school organizations to lead previously struggling schools that serve more than 18,000 students per year. The grant program, entitled Believe and Succeed, will generate up to 50 transformed schools totaling $5.8 million in funding.

Believe and Succeed repurposes existing grant funding to invest in ambitious plans to turn around struggling schools and create new, open-enrollment public schools.  The initiative is funded primarily with federal grants and a smaller percentage of state 8(g) funds, already dedicated to the turnaround of struggling schools.

The state's strategy historically has been to invest in charter management organizations, but to achieve faster growth of turnaround efforts the Department has for the first time called on traditional educators and charter organizations alike to launch new visions for struggling schools. Believe and Succeed grants will provide the funding necessary for transformative leaders to be trained by nationally recognized principal development programs. Recipients include individual educators; school districts including Avoyelles, Jefferson, Natchitoches, and Rapides Parishes; education non-profits; and charter school organizations, like New Orleans-based FirstLine Schools.

"Believe and Succeed is about empowering educators to address the urgent problem of struggling schools," said State Superintendent John White. "By more effectively using available funds, and by calling on our state's most innovative educators, our state can provide high-quality options for families quickly."

"We are in need of strong school leaders prepared to take on the increasing challenges before educators," said Holly Boffy, secretary-treasurer of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. "Teachers across Louisiana are ready to take on the challenge and eager for opportunities to develop their skills. This program and its recipients will initiate a new wave of leadership development across districts that further our collective mission of increasing opportunities and outcomes for kids."

The Department solicited proposals in March and received 37 applications. After conducting a rigorous, multiple-round review process, winning grants include: 

  • Dumaka Moultrie: Mr. Moultrie is an educator and recent graduate of Columbia University's Summer Principal Academy, held in New Orleans. He plans to open a middle school in an under-served city in the Northshore region of the state. He is focused on using his Believe and Succeed training to help him open a school that sets high standards for students and creates a culture that meets the needs of all learners.
  • Avoyelles Parish: This district is partnering with the Rapides Foundation to fund a cohort of leaders through the University of Washington's Center for Educational Leadership, resulting in the turnaround of the district's F schools.
  • FirstLine Schools: This organization is working with a current school leader in order to prepare him to lead a Career and Technical Education (CTE) school in New Orleans by engaging with the most successful CTE programs around the country.
  • New Schools for Baton Rouge: This organization will use its grant to grow proven charter school management organizations from across the state and nation in the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone, improving opportunities for the students of North Baton Rouge.

 "Most states tout their efforts to reform education and close the achievement gap. The leadership in Louisiana has recognized that doing things the same old way results in just that, more of the same." said Dumaka Moultrie. "Innovative educational reforms and opportunities like Believe and Succeed are clear indicators that the Louisiana believes children can succeed.

"Working with and meeting folks from different parts of the education system in Louisiana, I have been so impressed by the culture of dedication to students and to innovation.  Believe and Succeed has changed the way I think about what is possible for me as an educator and what is possible for education in general," said Brennan Gage, a career educator and grant recipient planning to open a school in an urban area of Louisiana.

"As a community partner, New Schools for Baton Rouge is excited to work with educators and proven local and national school organizations to expand their impact and create new, excellent schools in the capital region," says Chris Meyer, CEO of New Schools for Baton Rouge.  "Believe and Succeed says as much about our and the community's demand for schools that prepare all children for college and career success as it does about the new, innovative public-private efforts to work together and achieve this vision."

"Believe and Succeed provides our district with necessary funding to assist in implementing both state and district reforms. These funds will build capacity in our teachers and school leaders to successfully implement the expectations of high quality teaching and learning thru Common Core State Standards and curriculum." said Dr. Jim Meza, superintendent of Jefferson Parish. The funding will also accelerate the achievement of our district goal to provide high quality learning opportunities for every day, every child."

For more information on Believe and Succeed, please click here and to learn more about the individual grant recipients by region and plan, please click here

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