Expanding Course Access in Louisiana

Louisiana announced that 21 more providers for the Supplemental Course Academy made it into the final round of due diligence to become eligible to begin serving students next year. Over a bowl of New Orleans gumbo, state assistant superintendent Ken Bradford described the state’s effort to simultaneously improve college and career preparation.  He said Wednesday’s announcement (in full below) is interesting for two reasons:

  • It includes job training providers reflecting the superintendent’s aggressive efforts to quickly and dramatically improve employability; and
  • It includes student support and special needs service providers (like speech therapy provider PresenceLearning).

The student support services could supplement or complement services currently provided in school.  Every school has an onsite facilitator that serves as liaison between the school and Course Choice providers.  Schools are obligated to provide a place for students to take an online course, but students may also have the option to take the course from home.
Some of the new providers will offer noncredit bearing services, some could be electives. Schools continue to manage student transcripts. As noted in a more detailed August post Course Choice is available to parents and students in schools rated C or worse on the state’s A-F rating system.
Some courses are fully online.  Others, like Mschool (incubated at 4.0 Schools, see EdWeek feature) which facilitates Algebra 1, provides the onsite supervision.  The options are priced accordingly. Five teachers are among the current providers and it’s likely that additional teachers will be added to the list. Louisiana has developed a thorough review process for online and blended course providers.
A number of states are following in their footsteps. Digital Learning Now! is facilitating conversations about how states can share the burden of course review and consider forms of reciprocity.


21 Applicants Advance to the Round 2 Interview Process

BATON ROUGE, La.- The Department of Education today announced that 21 Course Choice provider applicants have advanced to the next round of the selection process with the goal of participating in the second year of the program. Currently, 21 active course providers serve over 2,000 Louisiana students. “The goal of the Course Choice program is to provide high-quality educational options to students in both rural and urban areas of the state that currently do not have access to the classes they need to prepare for college or a career,” said State Superintendent John White.  “By accepting new providers through a thoughtful, rigorous review process, this program will continue to diversify its offerings, ensuring students have the access they need and deserve.” This year, the Department narrowed its request for applications by outlining “innovation targets” that called for specific types of providers to apply. These targets sought providers that offer more courses that meet both the academic and career needs of Louisiana students.  The requested courses were identified based on feedback from educators, parents, industry leaders, and regional economic development experts. They include:

  • Expanded Opportunities for Career-Oriented Students: Innovative ways to expand access to high-value Career and Technical Education training courses (construction crafts, advanced manufacturing, transportation, energy, healthcare) for students in more remote school districts;
  • ELA and Math Skills-Based Content; and
  • Student Services: Supporting students through their school experience through counseling, rehabilitative services, and test prep.

As a result of this narrowed focus, 28 organizations submitted applications. These applicants underwent an initial review to determine if they met eligibility standards listed in the Request for Applications. 21 applications were accepted, the majority of which provide courses aligned to the proposed innovation targets:

  • 11 of the applicants offer courses focused on providing training for career-oriented students, including agricultural career courses, nursing, welding (including mobile welding), and manufacturing and industrial safety;
  • 4 of the applicants offer innovative student services, including speech therapy and occupational therapy; and
  • 11 of the applicants are Louisiana-based organizations including Benjamin Franklin High School, eLearning Center, DJay’s School of Beauty, J.Schneider and Associates, Pelican Virtual, and Sparx Welding.

The interview process will include pre-interview submissions, an in-person interview with Department staff and post-interview follow-up. Next, applicants successful in their interview will advance to the third phase of the process – an independent, third party evaluation – before moving on to final BESE approval. This final approval of new course providers is scheduled to occur January 2014. Registration for 2014-2015 Course Choice courses will begin in February 2014. To learn more about Course Choice, please click here or to view the Course Choice RFA that outline parameters for applicants and a more detailed explanation of the review process, please click here.   PresenceLearning and Digital Learning Now! are Getting Smart Advocacy Partnters.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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