School funds up for grabs

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 2, 2010

By David Vitrano


RESERVE – The St. John the Baptist Parish School Board will decide Thursday whether the district will vie for a share of the $4.35 billion in federal funds the Obama administration has set aside for the Race to the Top program.

According to a packet from the National School Board Association, the money will be awarded on a state-by-state basis to those states “that have solid plans to produce certain reforms and can demonstrate that they have conditions in place to produce success.”

Program material states there are 19 selection criteria for which states can earn points for their application. One of those is “broad school board commitment and support.”

Louisiana as a whole has made strides in recent years to improve its education system. According to a release from the Department of Education, “Louisiana is the only state in the country where the achievement gap has narrowed significantly in both fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math.” Despite these strides, nearly one-third of students in the state perform below grade level.

As the DOE believes “Race to the Top represents one of Louisiana’s best and most immediate opportunities to marshal the resources needed to rebuild enduring capacity in each of our districts and improve academic results in all of our schools,” it has developed a three-pronged plan of improvement for the state’s public schools.

The first part of the plan involves creating an environment of “world-class education” for Louisiana students. The DOE’s vision of world-class education includes literacy by the third grade, on time progression to the fourth grade and graduation, grade-level performance in English language arts and mathematics in the eighth grade and proper preparation for post-secondary education. Also, it is the state’s goal that these be achieved regardless of race or socio-economic status.

The other parts of the state’s plan deal with increasing educator accountability and turning around the state’s lowest performing schools.

Said St. John Superintendent Courtney Millet, “Our school system wants to win the real race to the top — the one that ensures all students are achieving at high levels.”

The school board will need to commit to the program by Jan. 10. A vote will be taken at the special meeting called for 10 a.m. Thursday at the Godchaux Grammar cafeteria in Reserve.