Groups make pitch to help schools with new standards
Three professional development organizations — two national and one based in Louisiana — laid out Tuesday what they would do to help Baton Rouge public school teachers deal with new educational standards known as Common Core, which were launched in the classroom two months ago.
“We will be back with you shortly … tomorrow, because this is a very short process,” said Michael Haggen, deputy superintendent for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, to the first presenter, the Institute for Learning, of Pittsburgh.
Haggen and an 11-member internal committee dominated by principals and assistant principals, worked late into the night Tuesday trying to recommend a firm to provide training, coaching, tests and lessons in English, math, science and social studies for the school system’s 3,000-plus teachers. They had not done so by deadline Tuesday.
Superintendent Bernard Taylor, who was not present at the meeting, already has said he will accept the committee’s recommendation as his own and pass it along to the School Board, which has scheduled a vote for Thursday night.
School Board members Connie Bernard and Vereta Lee sat in on Tuesday’s presentations.
Common Core, which has been adopted by 45 states, went into effect in August throughout Louisiana public schools.
The presentations, each an hour long, began with the Institute for Learning, based at the University of Pittsburgh, followed by the Center for Development & Learning, of Metairie, and ending with the Leadership and Learning Center, a division of textbook giant Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
In July, facing resistance from several School Board members, Taylor set aside a proposed four-year, $2.7 million contract with the Institute for Learning.
Taylor, a graduate of that university, has hired the university’s Institute for Leadership several times in the past to train teachers in other areas, but several board members balked at the expense and wanted to explore other options.
Taylor then sought proposals from interested groups to handle this work for up to four years, though he says he hopes the last year or two won’t be necessary. The review committee narrowed the 11 applicants to the three finalists who presented Tuesday.
Each presenter gave prices only for the first two years: $1 million for Center for Development and Learning, almost $1.4 million for Institute for Learning and more than $2.2 million for the Leadership and Learning Center, based in suburban Denver.
Institute for Learning’s bid this time was almost a half million dollars less than what it originally proposed last summer. That drop in price is partly due to the fact that the 2013-14 school year will be almost three months underway by the time the institute would start working next month.
The Institute for Learning also is not offering help in social studies in the first year, something Haggen quizzed presenter Colleen Briner, the group’s executive director, about.
Briner said the institute, which has many clients, lacks the people available to do social studies training justice, at least in the first year.
“Rather than giving a thin implementation, we decided to omit it,” Briner admitted.
The price, however, accounts for only 10 percent of the score an applicant can earn, based on the way the review committee has set up its scoring.
The bulk of the points, 80 percent, comes from how positively the committee judges the training and products the company is providing.
The Center for Development & Learning probably received the warmest reception from the committee.
Through the years the group has made its name working with school districts in the New Orleans area, but is training teachers in several Louisiana school districts in using Common Core.
Alice Thomas, president and CEO of the center and a former teacher, including at schools in Baton Rouge, said teachers are spooked by the new terms in Common Core, but she said they are not that different.
“It’s not all new. It’s just a brushing, a rethinking, and another slant on things they already know about,” Thomas said.
Haggen said the center listed several prominent educators in its proposal.
“At any point will Michael Fullan and Doug Fisher be in the district at least once?” Haggen asked.
Thomas promised they would.
The Leadership and Learning Center brought a big team of presenters and distributed to committee members leather briefcases with their proposals, complete with USB drives.
“We are able to take the research, take it from a 10,000-foot view and translate it to on the ground to how it actually looks in the classroom,” said Michelle Moore, a former teacher who is now a trainer with the group.