AIE Blog

News and notes on innovations and education reform in Louisiana.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A model for the nation

Schools in Louisiana are using test scores to evaluate teachers and institutions. The initiative, supported by President Obama, was launched in stages since 2003, has drawn support from three governors, including Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.

That's the Washington Post story that you should be reading today. Written by Nick Anderson, the piece gets right to heart of the accountability issue. Louisiana ties student test scores to a chain of evaluations that reach all the way to colleges of education where many teachers get credentials.

Other states are following the model Louisiana has created. Leading the nation in one aspect of education innovation is terrific, but we can do more.

Lifting the charter cap was a real accomplishment. Approving the two innovative charter schools designed by AIE was also a great step forward. But the hesitation that persists among many in the state's education community when it comes to virtual schools and online learning is troublesome. That has to change.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

The early bird

It takes innovative thinking to make a real difference in education today. And on Thursday, December 3rd in Baton Rouge, that's exactly what happened when the East Baton Rouge School Board unanimously voted to accept the two applications from the Helix Network charter schools.

Starting next year, Baton Rouge area students will have the opportunity to attend a new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) high school that is proposed to be located in the Shaw Center. Not coincidentally, at the end of November, President Obama praised the efforts of leaders across America who have been promoting STEM schools, and called for more in his "Educate to Innovate" address. The President called for a STEM campaign that will include efforts not only from the Federal Government but also from leading companies, foundations, non-profits, and science and engineering societies to work with young people across America to excel in science and math. As part of the campaign, President Obama hopes to do a series of events, announcements and other activities that build upon the STEM “call to action.”

Several days after the President spoke, the EBR unanimous vote in favor of the STEM high school made clear that Baton Rouge would take the President up on this challenge. In truth however, the Baton Rouge area has already been hard at work promoting exactly the kind of partnerships that the President envisions. BP America, a leading employer in our region invested early in the creation and development of the STEM concept school, and helped to fund the design work that AIE undertook to make this school a masterpiece of innovation. We applaud the visionary efforts of BP America in focusing on the need for all children.

This is exactly the kind of leadership that New York Times columnist Bob Herbert spoke about (serendipitously) in a column on December 4th. Herbert wrote:

"... the Harvard Graduate School of Education is creating a new doctoral degree to be focused on leadership in education. It’s the first new degree offered by the school in 74 years. The three-year course will be tuition-free and conducted in collaboration with faculty members from the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The idea is to develop dynamic new leaders who will offer the creativity, intellectual rigor and professionalism that is needed to help transform public education in the U.S."

Without a doubt, Louisiana is at the head of the class when it comes to innovative solutions to real education reform.