Dec 02, 2015

Grants Aimed at Creating or Enhancing Career Preparation Opportunities for Students with Disabilities

BATON ROUGE, La. – The Louisiana Department of Education today announced the recipients of the Building Pathways to High School Diplomas for Students with Disabilities Opportunity Grants. The 66 districts and charter schools will use the $4 million in grant funding to improve graduation rates and provide career preparation and opportunities for students with disabilities after high school. The recipients approved for funding through the grant include 55 districts, 10 charter schools, and the Louisiana Schools for the Deaf and Visually Impaired.

"These grants will allow districts and charter schools to better maximize the educational experience for students with disabilities, offering them an increased opportunity at success after high school with a diploma,” said State Superintendent John White. “It is expected that this will further the progress made with ensuring all students can pursue a high school diploma that prepares them for meaningful post-secondary experiences.”

The most recent data shows a growth of more than seven percentage points in high school graduation rates among students with disabilities, from 29.3 percent in 2010-2011 to 36.7 percent in 2012-2013. Act 833 of 2014 established an alternate diploma pathway for students with disabilities, holding them to the same high expectations as their non-disabled peers.

Grant recipients will use the funds to:

  • Provide necessary equipment to offer students with disabilities access to career preparation experiences,
  • Establish new partnerships with local businesses providing hands-on workplace experiences for students with disabilities adhering to Jump Start Internship Guidelines,
  • Train and certify career education professionals through channels such as the Jump Start Super Summer Institute, and
  • Provide research-based curriculum and high-quality instruction for students assessed on LAA 1.

Additionally, districts and charter schools receiving grant awards will be expected to increase district and school collaboration with Jump Start Regional Teams, supporting student success and leading to more students with disabilities graduating with an industry-valued credential through a Jump Start pathway.

In Tangipahoa Parish, district leaders plan to use their $91,000 grant to provide career preparation experiences in three of their high schools through the purchase of the research-based Practical Assessment Exploration System. These students will participate in simulated work environments to develop work-related problem solving skills, understand proper work behavior, develop a thorough knowledge of job skills, and gain a better understanding of a real work setting.

“Tangipahoa Parish School System is committed to saying ‘YES’ in providing vocational training and employment opportunities for all students with disabilities. The Opportunity Grant Award will enable us the ability to enhance our Tangi YES (Youth Employment Skills) Community Based Vocational Instruction Program,” said Cheryl Kirkland, Director of Special Education for Tangipahoa Parish Public Schools. “This money will be used to purchase the PAES (Practical Assessment Exploration System) curriculum, an educational program providing hands-on training, assessment, and career exploration across a broad range of career pathways. Participation in this program would provide the opportunity to earn the necessary credentials for a Career Diploma which, in turn, will ultimately lead to an increased number of students with disabilities exiting school with a diploma. This award will allow us to offer better, increased supports for our students with disabilities by offering a broad range of vocational training opportunities which will extend into the community enabling our students to go on to become productive, independent members within their communities after graduation.”

East Feliciana Parish Schools will receive $55,000 in grant funding to increase access to courses that offer industry-based credentials such as hospitality, customer services, construction crafts, and animal and agricultural science. Additionally, the district will increase access to technology and increase the number of field-based internship experiences with local businesses.

"The East Feliciana Public School System is overjoyed with gratitude for receiving the Opportunity Grant,” said Latrice Smith, Director of Exceptional Student Services for East Feliciana Parish Schools. “Our faculty and staff are elated about the numerous opportunities this grant will generate for our students, and our parents are appreciative for the efforts that have been made to provide their children with vital yet realistic options to pursue post-secondary opportunities including two-and four year college degrees certificate programs, formal employment trainings, and apprenticeships."

The Algiers Charter Association will receive grants for two of its charter schools. L.B. Landry-O.P. Walker College and Career Preparatory High School will receive $55,000 and Algiers Technology Academy will receive $35,000. Charter leaders say their main focus will be building community partnerships with the Hospitality and Senior Care Training Institute to support career preparation for students with disabilities. Teachers will also be certified in course leading to industry-based credentials in areas such as Certified Customer Service, Certified Front Desk Representative, Certified Maintenance Employee, and Certified Restaurant Server.

“Algiers Charter is grateful to be able to expand life opportunities for our students through the support of these Opportunity Grant awards,” said Dianne Lewis, Executive Director of Exceptional Student Services for the Algiers Charter School Association. “This funding will better allow students with disabilities to develop many of the essential career skills that will greatly increase their long-term employability. This grant will help provide a pathway to a career diploma to become contributing citizens in society upon graduating from high school.”

The amount awarded to each district or charter organization was based on the quality of the application and number of students with disabilities impacted by the funds. Grant recipients will operate through September 2016.

To view a list of Building Pathways to High School Diplomas for Students with Disabilities Opportunity Grant recipients, please click here.

For more information about the education of students with disabilities, please click here.

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