White: Low-performing centers will be denied state aid under overhaul
“Every program that takes public dollars will be held to a common standard.” John white superintendent of education, on low-performing pre-kindergartens
State Superintendent of Education John White said Tuesday that low-performing pre-kindergarten schools and centers will be denied state aid as part of Louisiana’s overhaul of the system.
“Every program that takes public dollars will be held to a common standard,” White said.
The revamp stems from a state law passed earlier this year, called Act 3, that is designed to better prepare pre-K students for kindergarten.
However, many of the details of the new setup were left to White and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which will consider the issue next month.
The list of pre-K or child care providers includes LA 4, Head Start, day care and private school programs.
“There are a lot of different choices out there, but children and their families do not have equal access and quality varies widely,” White said.
“It all adds up to a fragmented picture that allows students to fall through the cracks,” he said.
White said the overhaul means that:
- Whether pre-K schools and centers get public dollars will depend on performance and demand.
- Schools will get letter grades based on childrens’ kindergarten readiness and classroom instruction.
- Families will be able to use a one-stop website to enroll and compare programs.
- The state will beef up training for pre-K instructors.
Pilot projects to usher in the changes are set for the 2013-14 school year, followed by a statewide test run the following school year.
All the changes are supposed to be in place by the 2015-16 school year.
While the programs cover youngsters from birth to age 5, the chief focus is on 3- and 4-year-olds.
About 42,000 students are enrolled in publicly-funded pre-K programs for 4-year-olds.
BESE, with advice from White, is supposed to come up with performance targets for children under the age of 3 and academic standards for 3- and 4-year-olds.
In response to a question, White said he does not expect opposition to plans for denying funds to low-performing pre-K schools and centers that fail to make improvements.
He said state officials have spent months meeting with those who run the sites.
In addition, White said it may make sense to delay any decisions on how letter grades are assigned until the pilot projects are complete.
John Warner Smith, chief executive officer of Education’s Next Horizon, said he was generally pleased with the plan, including pilot projects before the changes take full effect.
“I think it is a good start,” Smith said. “I am very encouraged.”
He noted that schools and centers with low ratings will have a chance to make improvements before they are denied public dollars.
“What I heard him say is that they will be very careful and very deliberate about that process,” Smith said after hearing White’s briefing.
The state spends about $300 million for pre-K education programs.
State officials say 54 percent of students enter kindergarten ready to learn, such as being able to count to 20 and recognizing the alphabet.
The state has about 1,800 child-care centers.
Exact figures on how many pre-K schools operate were unavailable.