More high school students earning college credit

While Louisiana has long ranked near the bottom nationally among public high school students who earn college credit, those who did so this year rose by 30 percent, the state Department of Education announced Thursday. The tests are called Advanced Placement. AP classes can pave the way for college credit for students who score at least a 3 on a test with a score range of 1 t o 5. Advocates say… Continue reading →

Forbes ranks Tulane top La. college

Advocate file photoTulane University is again the highest rated private or public university in Louisiana, according to Forbes’s list of the nation's top colleges released Wednesday. Forbes placed Tulane at 147. LSU was the next-best Louisiana school at 190.

Tulane is again the highest ranked private or public university in Louisiana, according to Forbes’ annual rating of the nation’s top colleges. The Forbes list, released Wednesday, placed Tulane at 147 in its ranking of the 650 best undergraduate colleges in the country. LSU was the next-best Louisiana school at 190. Topping Forbes’ Best Colleges list was Massachusetts’s Williams College, followed by Stanford University and Swarthmore College. Other Louisiana… Continue reading →

Schools move to implement free lunch program

Advocate file photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- First graders at the Ryan Elementary School line up for lunch in 2013. Louisiana has been slow to start utilizing free lunch for students provided by the federal government.

Some school districts in Louisiana plan to offer free meals to all their students even though the state Department of Education has yet to give them the green light to do so. East Baton Rouge Parish public schools announced Monday it will take advantage of a new federal initiative that allows public schools in high-poverty areas to provide free meals to all students without families having to fill out individual forms. Other interested… Continue reading →

BESE votes to challenge Jindal on Common Core

Advocate staff photo by ANGELA MAJOR -- Chas Roemer (center), president of BESE, addresses a comment Tuesday, July 29, 2014, during their meeting in the Claiborne Building.

In a pointed challenge to Gov. Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s top school board Tuesday voted to join a lawsuit against the governor aimed at allowing Common Core tests to proceed as planned. The vote was 6-4, with two of Jindal’s own appointees siding with the majority. Chas Roemer, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and a former Jindal ally, said one of the key issues in the legal challenge is BESE’s… Continue reading →

Central’s Faulk gets high marks, pay raise and contract extension

The Central School Board on Thursday gave Superintendent Michael Faulk an almost perfect job evaluation and agreed to extend his contract one more year, meaning it won’t expire until Dec. 31, 2016. Faulk is the only superintendent Central has had since it broke away from the East Baton Rouge Parish school system in 2007. During his tenure, Central schools have steadily improved their academic performance, added students (now about 4,400), improved facilities and maintained a healthy… Continue reading →

All EBR school system students to receive free lunch

The East Baton Rouge Parish school system will be providing free lunch to its almost 42,000 students, including thousands who in the past had to pay for their meals. The change, announced Monday, takes effect Aug. 11, the start of the 2014-15 school year. The school district plans to take advantage of a new federal initiative that allows public schools in high-poverty areas such as Baton Rouge to provide free meals to all students without… Continue reading →

Teacher and public school evaluations face renewed scrutiny

A Tulane professor asked to review key parts of Louisiana’s public school accountability system said that, in some ways, the state is one of the national leaders. “Overall, Louisiana is probably above average in a lot of respects,” said Douglas N. Harris, an associate professor of economics. But Harris said there are areas that need attention, such as why some F-rated public schools have top-rated teachers and others that earn As have teachers rated as… Continue reading →

Video: LSU Chancellor F. King Alexander reflects on his first year

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander, photographed in front of the school's Memorial Tower. He's been on the job for a year now.

If there’s one central theme to F. King Alexander’s first year as LSU president and chancellor, it has been unification. He’s moving to reunite a fragmented LSU system. He’s working with leaders of other systems to develop legislative strategy. The Board of Supervisors has supported him, as has Gov. Bobby Jindal. He’s also winning over some of his toughest critics and gaining timid appreciation from normally suspicious faculty. “Educated people generally will make the same… Continue reading →

New EBR School Board plan muddies electoral, legal picture

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board’s controversial last-minute shift from an 11-member board to one with 9 members has scrambled the election map less than four weeks before qualifying for elections this fall and prompted an almost certain legal fight. The new plan, adopted Thursday, hurts most directly two politicians: Jerry Arbour, who’s currently on the board; and W.T. Winfield, a former board member seeking to rejoin the body. Arbour and Winfield were close allies… Continue reading →

Ethics complaints target White, BESE members

A longtime critic of state Superintendent of Education John White said Friday she and others plan to file an ethics complaint next week naming White and four members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. White disputed the comments. Lee Barrios, a former school teacher in St. Tammany Parish who often testifies at BESE meetings, spelled out plans by her, parents and education “activists” in a news release and a telephone interview. What… Continue reading →

EBR School Board agrees to downsize to 9 members

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND --  East Baton Rouge Parish School Board members, from left, Connie Bernard, Jerry Arbour and Jill Dyason participate in the meeting scheduled Thursday for members to vote on redistricting plans that would reduce its size.

Shrugging off threats of litigation, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday narrowly approved a new map that reduces from 11 to nine the number of representatives serving on the School Board starting Jan. 1. The winning plan, known as Freeman 9 Member 7, one of six introduced, was approved in a 6-5 vote after more than six hours of debate. Voters in East Baton Rouge Parish will have nine School Board districts to… Continue reading →

Special ed overhaul called 'monumental'

Louisiana’s education establishment faces a huge challenge implementing a controversial new law to make it easier for high school students to earn a high school diploma, superintendents said Thursday. “The bottom line is it is going to be a very difficult process,” said Doris Voitier, superintendent of the St. Bernard Parish school system and president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents. “We just all have to recognize we are going to have significant… Continue reading →

SU faculty spar with Mason over college finances

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Southern University Faculty Senate President Thomas Miller, right, announces the Southern University Faculty Senate's plans to return Southern to 'fiscal solvency and academic excellence' Thursday in front of the John B. Cade Memorial Library. Miller is an associate professor of French and German. Listening, from left to right,  are Irma Cobb, professor of Spanish and Chair of Foreign Languages, Don Hernandez, an assistant professor of History, and Faculty Senate vice-president Albert Samuels, professor and Chair of SU'svDept. of Criminal Justice and Political Science.

The leaders of Southern University’s Faculty Senate say system President Ron Mason is to blame for the cash-strapped school’s financial woes and other problems. The group went public with its complaints on campus Thursday in front of the library, raising questions over Mason’s latest proposal to merge the president and campus chancellor jobs, which he says will save money. The group, which recently took a vote of “no confidence” in Mason, is calling for Mason’s removal… Continue reading →

Nichols, Roemer disagree on Common Core lawyer request

Kristy Nichols

Sparking new disagreements, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said Thursday she needs more information on the state school board’s request to hire special legal counsel in the battle over Common Core. In a letter to state Superintendent of Education John White and Chas Roemer, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Nichols said “there are some concerns that must be addressed before the contract is approved.” The request stems from… Continue reading →

Democrats come out against EBR School Board redistricting

The executive committee for the East Baton Rouge Parish Democratic Party has come out against proposals up for debate Thursday to reduce the size of the parish School Board. The local Democratic Party’s opposition to the School Board redistricting follows on the heels of opposition by the local Republican Party, the Louisiana NAACP and the parent group One Community, One School District. The Democratic Party executive committee vote Tuesday night was unanimous. Not… Continue reading →

Pro-Common Core lawsuit filed in BR

AP Photo by MELINDA DESLATTE -- Superintendent of Education John White speaks after his meeting with Gov. Bobby Jindal about public school testing last week.

One day after Common Core opponents went to court, a group of parents and teachers launched their own lawsuit Tuesday and accused Gov. Bobby Jindal of illegally trying to derail the academic standards and companion tests. “The governor has effectively thrown a wrench into accountability, putting parents, teachers and students in a position of immediate peril,” Stephen Kupperman, one of the lawyers in the case, said in a prepared statement that… Continue reading →

Change of plans adds parking lot at Central High

At a hastily called meeting, the Central School Board agreed Monday to spend $200,000 to convert a practice field at the rear of Central High School into a parking lot and have the work done in time for the teenagers’ return from summer break Aug. 7. “If we get a break in the weather, we’ll get it done in time,” said Superintendent Michael Faulk. The new asphalt parking lot, which will face Cloudland Drive, is… Continue reading →

Common Core target of lawsuit by 17 state lawmakers

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- Aerial of the new State Capitol building and grounds.

In Louisiana’s first major legal action attacking Common Core, 17 state lawmakers filed a lawsuit Monday to halt implementation of the hotly debated academic standards. The challenge, which was filed in the 19th Judicial District Court, contends that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the state Department of Education failed to follow the Administrative Procedures Act, which critics say was a required step that would have allowed crucial public input.… Continue reading →

GOP against shrinking EBR school board

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- School Board vice president Tarvald Smith, speaks during discussion of a motion to authorize the Superintendent to contract for professional services to complete a separate audit by the Board to address the findings in the Louisiana Department  of Education's EBR schools audit during a meeting of the East Baton Rouge School Board Thursday. during a meeting of the East Baton Rouge School Board Thursday. At left is Board member Evelyn Ware-Jackson.

East Baton Rouge Parish’s chapter of the Republican Party has come out against a proposal to reduce the number of members serving on the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board from 11 to a smaller number. The local GOP’s executive committee voted 13-1 to urge the School Board to maintain its current 11 members and “not bow to pressure that results in unnecessary turmoil and confusion, as well as larger districts farther from the people,” according… Continue reading →

Louisiana student loan debt averages $22,789

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Students walk past Thomas D. Boyd Hall, home to the Bursar's Office on LSU's campus, Thursday, July 17, 2014.

About a third of what Jessica Potts makes each month as a teacher goes toward paying off her student loans. The LSU graduate still has about $40,000 to pay off — at the rate of $800 a month. “I want the American dream, too ... the house, the car, everything, but at this time I can’t afford it,” she said. Potts’ story is a familiar one for many Louisiana college and university graduates.… Continue reading →

Debate still raging over accuracy of EBR graduation records

Figuring out whether students are staying in school and earning enough credits to graduate from Baton Rouge public high schools has provoked two audits and a soon-to-be-released report from the Legislative Auditor’s Office. So far, though, the answer as to whether problems exist is proving elusive because key records that would answer such questions remain incomplete or missing, despite considerable efforts to find them. Critics of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system consider the… Continue reading →

La. Common Core debate rancorous

Bobby Jindal, left, John White and Chas Roemer

The political brawl over Common Core has mushroomed into the biggest education fight in Louisiana in decades, veteran education officials said. Not only is the state’s top school board fighting with Gov. Bobby Jindal, which is highly unusual, but panel members are publicly battling with one another, and Jindal has stopped just short of accusing his hand-picked state Superintendent of Education John White of breaking the law. Meanwhile, White has said the governor is… Continue reading →

Auditors clear many cases in EBR graduation report, but most records missing

An auditing firm hired by the East Baton Rouge Parish school system has re-examined hundreds of high school student records flagged by state auditors and determined that many of those students had correct grades and did graduate, but the auditors were not able to resolve most of the inconsistencies highlighted. Representatives of Postlethwaite & Netterville presented their findings to the School Board on Thursday night. The auditors conducted two reviews, an “academic records… Continue reading →

EBR School Board approves budget, but will revisit salaries

After much debate, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday approved a $438 million general operating budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year but plans to return on July 24 to reconsider employee salary schedules. Thursday’s vote comes weeks later than normal. The board historically has approved this budget before the start of each fiscal year on July 1. The general fund is by far the biggest of dozens the board handles, representing more than… Continue reading →

Gov. Jindal orders repair of Southern campus road

Photo provided by Southern University Media Relations -- Gov. Bobby Jindal, today, ordered the Department of Transportation and Development to begin emergency repairs on a damaged road at  intersection E.C. Harrison Drive, that crosses Roosevelt Steptoe Avenue on Southern Universityâs campus. ORG XMIT: ii8pox5ibkUntaorvMQB

A main road on Southern University’s Baton Rouge campus that has been impassable for nearly a month since it collapsed could be repaired and reopened by the start of the fall semester. Gov. Bobby Jindal has ordered the state Department of Transportation and Development to fix E.C. Harrison Road, which gave way when an aging culvert crumbled. Southern previously said it was seeking help from the state to get the road reopened because… Continue reading →

Jindal, White meeting yields no Common Core progress

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Gov. Bobby Jindal announces his administration's move to pull out of Common Core during a press conference on Wednesday at the Louisiana State Capitol.

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s much-anticipated meeting with state Superintendent of Education John White failed to produce any breakthrough Thursday in the heated battle over Common Core. Jindal, who did not speak with reporters afterward, repeated his view that White and the state Department of Education have to follow proper procedures in exam plans for the upcoming school year. “I made it clear to Superintendent White that it is important for the Louisiana Department of Education to… Continue reading →

Group decries plans to cut the size of the EBR School Board

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Tanya Nyman with the parent group, One Community, One School District, shares a presentation and expresses concerns about the EBR School BoardÕs vote, scheduled July 24, to redistrict itself, possibly reducing itself from 11 members to something smaller on Wednesday at the Main Library.

A parents group in Baton Rouge laid out a lengthy case Wednesday night against reducing the size of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, saying the plan lacks research to justify it and would give extra advantage to wealthier candidates and the special interests who support them. Meanwhile, a lawyer for the state NAACP told the same audience that the civil rights organization will sue if any of the five proposed new maps,… Continue reading →

Dalton Elementary getting new charter management

Dalton Elementary in Baton Rouge is changing hands after the charter management company selected by the state to run the school began collapsing after the abrupt resignation of its CEO, who admitted he lied on his résumé and failed to mention a prior prison sentence. Instead, Dalton is being handed over to a California-based group already opening new charter schools in Louisiana, the state-run Recovery School District announced Thursday. Continue reading →

BESE leaders offer new Common Core test plan

From left, BESE members Chas Roemer, Jim Garvey and Holly Boffy.

On the eve of a key meeting over Common Core, three leaders of Louisiana’s top school board said Wednesday they would conditionally go along with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s request for the state to come up with new tests for the upcoming school year. “As time is running short, we ask that you take this as a final proposal, made in good faith,” the trio said in a letter to Jindal. The message was… Continue reading →