Pre-K pilots set for 15 parishes

About 23,000 pre-kindergarten students will take part in pilot classes to overhaul the system starting this fall, state Superintendent of Education John White said Monday.

The Ascension, West Baton Rouge and Lafayette school systems are among the 15 parishes represented, White said.

Orleans, St. Tammany and Iberville parishes are also on the list.

The trial run will cost $2.6 million.

“These parishes will unify in their given areas what is today a fragmented system of child care,” White said.

The changes stem from a 2012 state law, called Act 3, which is aimed at improving what critics call a fractured pre-K setup with uneven quality, access and standards.

White said the pilots, and the statewide startup in 2015, will address the problem of only 54 percent of children in Louisiana entering kindergarten ready to learn.

“We have too many students falling through the cracks of this fragmented system,” White said.

That leads to years of academic struggles, White said.

The state’s goal is 70 percent.

The superintendent also said that, while parents will make the final decision, the pilots will be made available to all 3- and 4-year-olds.

“Every child will be accounted for, but it is up to the parents on how they will be educated,” White said.

Under the plan, local school districts, Head Start programs and others in the community will form community networks and devise standards for quality classes.

State officials envision early learning performance guidelines for those up to age 3 and academic standards for 3- and 4-year-olds.

The standards and assessments will provide the foundation for the state’s new quality rating system, including grades.

The overhaul is also supposed to include funding based on performance; easier access for parents to navigate classroom options and professional development for teachers.

White said the pilot programs are aimed at allowing communities to come up with classes that best address their needs rather than a “one sizes fits all” plan ordered by officials in Baton Rouge.