STRATEGIC PLAN ITEMS
Public education: actively lead K-12 education reform initiatives in EBR Parish
The EBRPSS moves into 2013 with a new strategic plan developed by the Committee for Educational Excellence which is nearing approval by the school board. Additionally, EBRSS’ superintendent has recently unveiled plans for new school choice models in the district, and a partnership agreement with the Department of Education on the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone for school turnaround in north Baton Rouge. In 2013, BRAC will work with the school board, the superintendent, its investors, and other educational stakeholders to monitor and influence the implementation of the strategic plan’s recommendations and to ensure positive outcomes from the creation of the Achievement Zone.
Public education performance: pursue efforts to increase K-12 performance across the Capital Region
Access to high-quality public education is an indicator of and fundamental contributor to a productive and developed society. The Capital Region has twelve public school districts as well as public charter schools and schools under the management of the state’s Recovery School District. Given its profound impact on the health of a community and economy, BRAC’s regional economic development strategy includes advancing public education as a foundational component. BRAC’s goal is to position the Capital Region as a place where formal and informal education is widely embraced, where families and children prepare for post-secondary education in a two- or four-year institution or to enter a knowledge-based competitive economy, and where lifelong learning is a common pursuit of the community. The 2006 report on regional education by BRAC provided a framework for understanding educational performance as well as policy recommendations for reform.
Committee on Educational Excellence EBR strategic plan: support the implementation of the Committee on Educational Excellence’s K-12 strategic plan in EBR Parish
With the Committee on Educational Excellence’s strategic plan completed, and with new leadership in place, EBR has a unique opportunity to adopt a variety of reform efforts and initiatives included in the strategic plan. The plan sets a bold goal to become a school district ranked in the top ten in Louisiana by 2020. BRAC calls for adoption of the CEE plan by the school board and implementation of the plan in 2013. BRAC will take an active role in transparently monitoring and communicating the plan’s adoption and implementation.
Report card on regional education outcomes: develop and publish a K-12 education report card based on state school performance score data to ensure accessibility of school and district performance scores
Each year, the state releases school performance data in the fall based on the outcomes of the prior school year. BRAC has gathered each year’s performance data for the twelve school districts in the Baton Rouge area, as well as for the recovery school district schools. In keeping with BRAC’s principle of educational outcomes being fundamental to economic development (see below), BRAC publishes an annual review of educational outcomes for the entire region.
Education outcomes are fundamental: rapid gains in education and workforce outcomes are vital to the region’s attractiveness for business investment and talent
This policy statement is one of BRAC’s six principles for economic development. BRAC is dedicated to pursuing significant gains in the areas of education and workforce development due to their influence on the region’s competitiveness. These gains will greatly assist its business and talent development efforts.
Charter schools and school alternatives: endorse and support the development of high-performing alternatives to traditional school models
BRAC and its regional allies should carefully support the development of high-performing charter schools to provide alternatives to families whose children are in under-performing schools as well as state and local policies that advance this practice and engender successful charter schools. Families with children in failing schools should have the ability to transfer to a more successful public school, magnet school, or charter school. Charter schools have more freedom with regard to how the school is run and often deliver student achievement levels that outperform district averages. Similar to charter management, school systems should support efforts to increase school-based management and autonomy in return for achieving performance goals. At the same time, policy makers should advance aggressive efforts to reconstitute failing schools, particularly at the region’s academically unacceptable schools. Further, local school districts should welcome and foster close partnerships with the recovery school district (RSD) schools that have been taken over by the state, with the understanding that RSD students and schools are part of their community’s public education system as well.
School turnaround: support innovative efforts to turn around failing schools, including the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone (BRAZ)
State and local leaders recognized the need for new methods to address an increasingly large number of underperforming schools located in the urban core of the City of Baton Rouge. The achievement zone contains eight schools that will be taken over by the Recovery School District (RSD) in some fashion during the 2012-13 school year, and ultimately up to twenty EBR schools may become part of the zone under state control. In 2012, the EBRPSS and the state Department of Education agreed to a framework for partnership on the BRAZ. By working with innovative non-profits who aim to recruit nationally competitive charter operators to the region, the RSD aims to bring creative thinking and unique resources to schools in the achievement zone. BRAC supports the BRAZ, as well as the work of the non-profit, New Schools Baton Rouge, established to ensure the success of the BRAZ.
Accountability in public schools: support efforts to protect and strengthen the state accountability plan for public schools in Louisiana
Louisiana’s award-winning public school accountability plan is a central component in efforts to increase student achievement across the state. The accountability plan includes high-stakes standardized tests that evaluate the ability of students to demonstrate skills in key subject areas. Maintaining the accountability plan will support increases in student achievement, educational attainment, and long-term economic growth in our state and region.
Teacher performance and accountability: support modifications to state and local policy to increase teacher performance and accountability through evaluations and incentives linked to student achievement in the classroom
A school’s employment practices can be restructured to identify the most-appropriate staff to play a role in the operation of the institution. In order for superintendents and districts to address school improvement, the state must enable and encourage districts to hold school leadership and teachers more accountable for classroom performance. Teachers—like students, schools, and other professionals—should be held accountable for their performance. High performance and accountability should trump years of service as the criteria for continued employment. With the advent of new technology and new models for monitoring and comparing teacher performance, tenure, reduction-in-force, and teacher pay policies should be linked to student outcomes. BRAC supports the 2012 education reform legislation related to the implementation of this so-called value-added assessments model for teacher evaluations, tenure, and reductions-in-force.
Market-based teacher compensation: support efforts that allow district leaders to adopt market-based teacher compensation practices
The ability to develop and maintain a base of qualified teaching professionals hinges, in part, on the capacity of school districts to offer competitive compensation packages, particularly for those positions that are toughest to fill. Many of the Capital Region’s districts have great difficulties hiring and retaining math and science teachers for high-poverty schools. In addition, starting salaries for teachers are often set at levels that are not competitive with neighboring districts or states. A more comprehensive market-based compensation system may help in attracting qualified teachers throughout the region by providing administrators with the flexibility to differentiate pay levels based on the subject area, market conditions, and/or individual and school performance.
School principals: support efforts to develop a pipeline of exceptional school leaders in the region’s public schools
Principals play a critically-important role in school performance by setting the proper tone, making strategic decisions, and demanding high levels of performance from teachers, staff, and students. Currently, a significant number of EBRPSS principals have over thirty years of service, making them eligible for retirement. As the current cadre of principals approaches retirement, a strategy for principal cultivation and training is critical to the ability of the school performance and student achievement to improve. Larger, more comprehensive investments in principal recruitment and development should be supported, including strengthening existing models, establishing a “leadership and training academy,” and exploring alternative approaches in the Capital Region.
Early childhood education: support efforts to improve effectiveness of and expand early childhood education (pre-kindergarten) programs
Research demonstrates that three- and four-year-old children who participate in high-quality, academically rigorous early childhood programs have higher scores on math and reading tests, greater language abilities, and higher graduation rates. Many districts in the Baton Rouge area have less than 50 percent of at-risk four-year-olds enrolled in pre-kindergarten despite the general availability of Head Start and LA-4 programs. Districts in the Baton Rouge area should consider investing in needed facilities and greatly expanding their marketing and outreach programs to low-income families to drive enrollment levels in proven, high-quality pre-kindergarten programs. Furthermore, the state should continue to further expand access to and availability of high-quality early childhood education.
Human capital and the role of Teach for America: support the operations and expansion of Teach for America as a critical program for bringing needed much-needed human capital into under-served schools
The quality of the teacher in the classroom is the greatest predictor and determinant of student achievement. In many low-performing, high-poverty schools, high-quality teachers are even more difficult to secure. A national non-profit called Teach for America (TFA) recruits talented college graduates and those seeking a second career through a competitive application environment in order to place the best talent into challenging school environments. In South Louisiana, the TFA program has played an important role in providing motivated, spirited teachers into a tough learning environment. BRAC supports the role of TFA as a key institution for our region’s educational improvement.
Tutoring programs: fund and develop one-on-one or small group tutoring programs that aggressively help at-risk students who have fallen behind catch up with their peers
Many students in the Baton Rouge area—particularly those coming from low-income families—begin school at a stage of learning development that falls below the standards for their age. In such situations, national research suggests that one-on-one or small group tutoring with a highly structured curriculum in the early grades is one of the most effective forms of remediation. The funding and implementation of such tutoring programs could have a substantial impact on overall student achievement levels in the Baton Rouge area and can be structured in ways to efficiently target expenditures on children most in need and most likely to benefit from the programs.
Alternative certification: support efforts to develop and strengthen alternative certification programs for teachers and principals
Teacher certification requirements seek to ensure competence and appropriate skills among education professionals. However, rigidly designed certification requirements also discourage some talented professionals, particularly college graduates without degrees in education, from pursuing the teaching profession. As such, alternative certification initiatives, such as the Practitioner Teacher Program, are important to recruiting exceptional individuals into the teaching profession.
Principal autonomy: support initiatives that empower principals to make school-level decisions and cultivate a performance culture focused on student achievement
Research indicates that school performance can be improved when principals are responsible for key activities such as recruitment and development of teachers, curricular issues, and the design and implementation of standard school-level functions and policies. Today, across the Baton Rouge area, principals have limited control or authority over their schools, classrooms, budgets, policies, and many practical decisions impacting their operations and effectiveness. Districts should identify and implement mechanisms to further empower principals to make those school-level decisions that impact student achievement and avoid mandating school-level policy at the district level.
Collective bargaining: oppose efforts to introduce collective bargaining arrangements in public school districts in the Capital Region
Collective bargaining arrangements can significantly restrict the ability of school boards to address the challenges facing public schools and, based on the balance of evidence available, do not contribute to increased student achievement. Specifically, policies and contract provisions demanded by teachers’ unions generally focus on issues of job security and uniform compensation increases, often in direct opposition to initiatives with proven or promising potential to increase student achievement (e.g., tenure reforms, market-based compensation, alternative certification). As such, collective bargaining likely would pose new obstacles to improving public schools and advancing economic development in the Baton Rouge area.
Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) district restructuring: support modifications to the state funding formula efforts to better address inequities created when new school districts and charter schools are formed
Restructuring the MFP, the formula used to distribute state dollars to local school districts, is a crucial element in fostering an environment open to innovation in educating Louisiana’s young citizens. For instance, the current formula creates undue burdens on existing school districts when new school systems are formed. This issue has resulted in EBRPSS facing revenue shortfalls to cover certain costs (e.g., retired teacher medical and life insurance) when new districts have formed. The MFP should be modified to ensure fair and equitable funding for regions, such as the Capital Region, that are exploring innovative means to improve student achievement.
Alternative funding for school infrastructure: identify mechanisms to accelerate funding for school infrastructure improvements, including the development of alternative-funding models
Ensuring a pleasant and productive learning environment through school construction and maintenance is a key component to a positive educational experience. Yet the system budget is not always able to fund needs for new or updated facilities as they arise. An examination of alternative funding mechanisms to accelerate investments in up-to-date infrastructure is needed to ensure that children have positive learning environments.
Download » BRAC's 2013 Strategic Plan