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Iberville superintendent hopeful that school district will score high grade from state after three years of improvements

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Plaquemine High Teacher of the Year, Brian Rowan, left, lectures in an 8th-grade Biology 1 class Wednesday.  The school has risen from a D school to hopefully a B school when the 2015 scores are released in early to mid-December.

Recent data from the Louisiana Department of Education has Iberville schools Superintendent Ed Cancienne hopeful the district will ascend into the above-average range in the state’s upcoming district performance report. Iberville schools went from having 38 percent of its students score basic or above on state academic tests in 2014 to 59 percent of them… Continue reading →

Academic rigor and close-knit atmosphere two biggest memories as LSU Lab School celebrates its centennial

LSU Lab School's first football team 1932

The University Laboratory School today is a world of artificial turf, computers in the classrooms and a state-of-the-art auditorium. It all looks different to Bill and Betty Norris, who graduated from the school in the early 1950s. Back then, the lab school was in Peabody Hall on LSU’s campus, and students spent their… Continue reading →

Students try to drive home the need for flu shots to their peers

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Middle and high school students are not the easiest to persuade to get vaccinated for the flu. To up rates of vaccination, middle and high schools have clubs of students who go out and try to evangelize other students on the need to get vaccinated. Nate Batiste, holding a "STOP THE FLU" button,  is one of the students at Woodlawn High who is doing just that. The club has put up posters and are trying to get students to sign consent forms to that end.

For the eighth year in a row, East Baton Rouge Parish public schools are providing students with flu vaccinations free of charge. But while the price is hard to beat, the effort is nevertheless proving a tough sell, especially to older students. Nate Batiste thinks he knows why. “When adults talk to kids, they are… Continue reading →

Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards clears air with teachers, says he's not banning vouchers or closing charter schools

Governor-Elect John Bel Edwards greets teachers and education supporters at the 51st annual convention of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers   at the Golden Nugget Casino in Lake Charles, La., Monday, Nov. 23, 2014. The convention runs from Sunday afternoon, November 22, through Tuesday morning, November 24. (AP Photo/Lake Charles American Press, Rick Hickman) ORG XMIT: lacha

In his first address since winning election, Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards told teachers Monday that he entered the race because he wanted to improve education, but his first focus will be on the state budget. “The budget is going to be about $1.2 billion short: that has to be our first… Continue reading →

BESE, John Bel Edwards likely to disagree on major issues: vouchers, charter schools, Common Core

Louisiana Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. John Bel Edwards greets supporters as he watches election returns in a hotel suite at his election night watch party in New Orleans, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) ORG XMIT: LAGH102

The last two races settled Saturday night for Louisiana’s top school board means there will be a huge split between the board and Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards on the future of public schools. Key disputes loom on hot-button changes in school operations, Common Core and possibly the future of state Superintendent of Education John White, who Continue reading →

Humanities focused program at McKinley High in Baton Rouge shows promise

Advocate staff photo by  APRIL BUFFINGTON --   Precious Johnson, standing reads a quote while next to left Principal Herman Brister Sr., next to her right Joshua Robillard and in front of her from left Bri"Yonna Collins, LSU student Zandashe Brown and Adam Smith with East Baton Rouge Parish School System listens during the Humanities Amped program held at McKinley High School on Monday, November 16.

In education these days, science, math and technology dominate headlines and attract the bulk of the money from politicians and private donors, relegating the humanities to secondary status. McKinley High School in Baton Rouge, however, is bucking that trend as it cultivates a small school-within-a-school that emphasizes the humanities. It is showing early… Continue reading →

UL System president to step down

The president of the University of Louisiana system will step down from that post early next year. Sandra Woodley, who has led the nine-university system since 2013, didn’t provide a specific reason in the resignation letter she submitted to the system’s governing board. “Next year will be a critical time for higher education, and… Continue reading →

Longtime SU history professor Arthur Tolson passes away at 91

Arthur Tolson, a longtime history professor at Southern University in Baton Rouge, died Wednesday at the age of 91. Arrangements are pending, according to the university. “A true scholar and intellectual, Dr. Tolson touched the lives of countless students and was a trusted mentor to many of his colleagues and fellow SU faculty members,” Southern University… Continue reading →

Despite assurances, critics worry John Bel Edwards administration would 'destroy' charter schools, voucher system

Democratic gubernatorial contender John Bel Edwards’ stance on charter schools and vouchers is coming under scrutiny, with critics charging that both would be in jeopardy if Edwards is elected governor. Edwards disputes the criticism and says his position has been mischaracterized. “I know that he has said he would not hurt the (voucher) program or would… Continue reading →

LSU Manship School announces two new gifts totalling $2.55M

LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication has recently received two donations totaling $2.55 million. A $1.35 million gift from Charles and Carole Lamar will go toward expanding the Lamar Family Visiting Scholars program, while $1.2 million from the Manship family will complete the nation’s first endowed chair in media diversity. “These gifts directly contribute to our… Continue reading →

In new spat, some backers think 'Common Core' term is outdated, say phrase is politically radioactive

In the always contentious world of Common Core, there is yet another dispute — whether the term itself should be retired. Some backers of the standards say that, because the academic benchmarks are being reviewed and about to get a Louisiana imprint of sorts, Common Core is an outdated term. “We are in the process of… Continue reading →

Flu season is here! Baton Rouge students line up to get vaccinated

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Tyrielle Davis, left, reacts with a scrunched up nose for just a moment after receiving the flu mist from Kameron Keller, right, nursing student at BR General. EBR schools launched their annual flu vaccination campaign at Claiborne Elementary School Thursday with students receiving shots or nasal spray. EBR shoots to immunize 5,000 to 8,000 or more kids each year to create what is known as herd immunity that limits the severity of a flu outbreak.

Flu season has arrived and public schoolchildren throughout East Baton Rouge Parish are getting in line to see nurses armed with this season’s influenza vaccine. Claiborne Elementary School Principal Rochelle Anderson had 142 students waiting to get vaccinated Thursday, four times more children than last year’s… Continue reading →

LSU’s Sigma Chi fraternity suspended; investigation pending

Photo provided by YouTube -- Sigma Chi fraternity house is located at 27 Dalrymple Drive.

The Sigma Chi fraternity chapter at LSU has been placed on interim suspension, LSU Media Relations Director Ernie Ballard confirmed late Wednesday. Ballard said the chapter is suspended, pending an investigation, and that the fraternity received the interim suspension letter Nov. 3. “LSU placed them on interim suspension pending an advocacy and accountability investigation and organization… Continue reading →

Louisiana's school choice backers praise court's voucher decision, call it a victory

Advocates of school choice Wednesday hailed what they called a victory for voucher proponents in a ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision reversed a lower court decision that required the state to provide federal officials with annual reports on Louisiana’s voucher students. “Today’s decision is a clear victory for parents,” Ann… Continue reading →

Facility improvements, dual enrollment program helps Baker High improve from D to C school on latest report card

Advocate staff file photo by PATRICK DENNIS --Baker High School Honors English teacher Laquisha Comeaux has her class write in their journals before starting instruction last month. Baker High has improved from a D to a C grade on its latest report card.

Baker High School’s improvement from a D to a C school was a result of “a lot of pieces coming together,” Principal Traci Morgan told the School Board on Tuesday night. Baker High improved in all the areas measured by the state, rising from 58.8 points in 2013-14, a letter grade of D,… Continue reading →

Cox to double speed of discounted high-speed internet, offer more for lower-income Baton Rouge homes

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Broadmoor High School computer lab teacher Michelle Johnson, right, talks about her class with Cox Communications CFO Mark Bowser, left, BHS SGA President and Master of Ceremonies Byron Hall Jr., second from left partially obscured, and Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai during a tour. Students at computer work stations are, Latrellis Harrell, bottom front, and Tyler Woods, top background. Since 2012, Cox Communications has offered discounted home internet service to many families in Baton Rouge with kids who qualify for free lunch. Cox announced ÒenhancementsÓ to that effort today at Broadmoor High School. Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai,  EBR Supt. Warren Drake and Cox Communications CFO Mark Bowser attended the announcement.

Starting next month, Cox Communications will double the speed of its discounted high-speed home Internet service, and the $9.95 a month it costs will for the first time also come with in-home Wi-Fi, making it easier for lower-income households to take advantage of the Web. The Atlanta-based communications giant, which operates in 18 states, announced the service… Continue reading →

BESE candidates squabble over Common Core opposition

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --Kathy Edmonston answers panel questions Tuesday night at BRCC during a candidates forum for two Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) seats.

The two contenders for Chas Roemer’s Baton Rouge-area seat on Louisiana’s top school board are arguing about who is the bonafide critic of Common Core. Veteran educator Kathy Edmonston, a longtime critic of the standards, said runoff opponent Jason Engen is suddenly opposing Common Core despite heavy financial support from longtime backers of the overhaul.… Continue reading →

Four months after daughter’s death in drive-by shooting, Baton Rouge man killed in what police term a homicide

A man whose daughter was killed in a drive-by shooting four months ago was found dead of apparent gunshot wounds inside his north Baton Rouge house Monday morning in what police are terming a homicide. Police were called to the scene about 10 a.m. and discovered the body of Jeffrey Fleming, 42, inside the 5976 Victory… Continue reading →

Fewer math, writing standards needed, Common Core review panels say

Fewer writing and math standards are among the initial recommendations of three panels reviewing the Common Core academic benchmarks. The suggestions are in the first of two drafts before a 26-member panel called the Standards Review Committee settles on its third and final plan. The recommended changes are set to go to the state Board of… Continue reading →

East Baton Rouge School Board considering Success For All program for F-rated schools, adding magnet programs, and air-conditioning all school buses

Advocate file photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK -- Claiborne Elementary School

The East Baton Rouge Parish school system is working toward signing a $527,000, three-year contract with Baltimore-based Success For All to improve reading and literacy at four F-rated north Baton Rouge elementary schools, part of a $1.27 million federally funded grant to turn around low-performing schools. The School Board gave unanimous preliminary approval to the grant… Continue reading →

Federal judge expects to make quick decision on proposal to transform Pointe Coupee Central High

Advocate staff file photo by TERRY JONES -- Officials hope to turn Pointe Coupee Central High in Morganza into a STEM Academy

The Pointe Coupee Parish school system will have to wait just a little while longer before officials learn if their proposal to transform Pointe Coupee Central High into a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Academy will fly. U.S. District Judge James J. Brady said Thursday he will make a decision on the school… Continue reading →

School leaders back no penalties for skipping Common Core exams

Schools where students skipped Common Core tests earlier this year would avoid penalties under a plan endorsed Thursday by a key panel of local superintendents. The issue has simmered for months, with some superintendents saying their districts could be unfairly penalized because students skipped taking the exam. But the proposal is aimed at striking a balance… Continue reading →

With more students and more bus breakdowns, Livingston Parish officials seek to restructure school system’s transportation department

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- Youngsters on the blue bus peer over and around the seats on the first day of school at Walker Elementary in Livingston Parish in 2014.

About three times a week, Livingston Parish students get stranded at school or on the road when their bus breaks down and a backup isn’t available, forcing them to wait for another driver to finish a normal route before circling back for them, the system’s transportation supervisor said Tuesday.… Continue reading →

East Baton Rouge School Board calls March 5 election to fill District 4 seat vacated after Tarvald Smith elected judge

Tarvald Smith

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board has called a March 5 special election to replace Tarvald Smith, who was elected Oct. 24 to Baton Rouge City Court and whose resignation from the board took effect Monday. The board also declared a vacancy in District 4, which opens the door for qualified residents of… Continue reading →

Federal pilot program in Baton Rouge to test whether services for struggling students actually helps

A new federal pilot program in Baton Rouge — one of nine such programs nationally — will enable officials to provide extra services, support and career coaching to a group of students at two alternative schools in an effort to boost academic performance and graduation rates. The federal interagency Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth, or… Continue reading →

Judge weighs whether ex-Scotlandville High principal out of bounds using stick to break up fight

Advocate staff photo by  APRIL BUFFINGTON --   Calvin Nicholas, the Scotlandville High principal the EBR school district who was fired after breaking up a fight looks at his lawyer Jill Craft at the administrative law judge hearing at the Professional Development Center on Monday, November 2.

A retired administrative law judge will have to decide whether former Scotlandville High School Principal Calvin Nicholas’ decision to use a stick to break up a fight at the north Baton Rouge school was justified or went too far. East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Warren Drake testified Monday that he was “appalled” after he saw Continue reading →

Despite campaign vows, both Vitter and Edwards face obstacles to scrap Common Core

Republican David Vitter and Democrat John Bel Edwards are both Common Core critics, but uprooting the academic standards from Louisiana classrooms will be a huge challenge, whoever wins the governorship. And replacing state Superintendent of Education John White, which Edwards has promised to do, will be even tougher. “He can’t just wave a wand and make… Continue reading →

Thirty-four join football rosters after East Baton Rouge schools reduce minimum GPA standard for participation

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- English teacher Latesha Brumfield, left, talks over accelerated-reader book selections with basketball team member Eric Antoine, 15, right, Thursday in study hall after school at Glen Oaks High School.

Since the East Baton Rouge Parish school system lowered the grade-point average needed to participate in sports in August, Glen Oaks High School’s football team has added four players to its roster who were previously ineligible. They are among 34 teenagers in the parish who have benefited so far from the controversial lowering of… Continue reading →

David Vitter's brother, Jeffrey, called 'great researcher and academician' Ole Miss needs as new chancellor

Jeffrey S. Vitter, selected by the state college board as the preferred candidate for Chancellor of the University of Mississippi, speaks with medical students at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Jackson, Miss. Vitter is meeting with students, staff and faculty of both the medical school in Jackson and at the main campus in Oxford over the next two days prior to a board vote for the job. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

OXFORD, Miss. -- For the first time in a generation, the University of Mississippi will be led by a chancellor who didn't ascend from within. Nine days after saying he was their top pick, Mississippi's College Board voted unanimously Thursday to hire Jeffrey Vitter, now provost at the University of Kansas. "Together, we will build upon the University of Mississippi's position as… Continue reading →

How did Baton Rouge-area schools perform on their new state report cards?

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Baker High School Honors English teacher Laquisha Comeaux talks about her curriculum Thursday. Baker High has improved from a D to a C grade on its latest report card.

The latest report cards for Louisiana public high schools, released Thursday, were almost uniformly good news for schools in the Baton Rouge metro area, with several improving whole letter grades and climbing in state rankings. Three of the 10 most-improved high schools in 2015 are in and around Baton Rouge: Mentorship Academy, as well… Continue reading →

Check out your school's score: Newly released Louisiana high school letter grades on rise, but there's a catch...

Advocate file photo by BRAD BOWIE -- John White, Louisiana superintendent of education, delivers opening remarks at the September Supervisor Collaboration event at Bayou Church on Monday.

Fueled by improved student performance and controversial bonus points, Louisiana public high school letter grades are at an all-time high, state Superintendent of Education John White said Thursday. “Schools met the terms that we needed them to meet,” White told reporters. “They have stepped up to give kids the support they needed to graduate from high school.”… Continue reading →

TOPS report: 90 percent of students qualified for scholarships have accepted them, enrolled in Louisiana colleges

About 90 percent of students who have qualified for scholarships through TOPS since 2005 have accepted them and enrolled in Louisiana colleges and universities. A new report that has identified the 90 percent retention figure and other program stats likely will be used to help back up the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, which was created, at… Continue reading →

West Baton Rouge teacher, Iberville principal surprised with Milken Educator Awards — and $25,000 each

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Jessica Major, center, Port Allen Middle School's instructional coach, reacts to the announcement  that she is a recipient of the Milken Educator Award, Wednesday at the school. She's congratulated by West Baton Rouge Parish Schools speech and language pathologist Lisa Daggett, right, and flanked by, left to right, WBR School Board employee Warren LeJeune, assistant principal Kevin Moore, teacher Theresa Tucker, and substitute teacher Georgia Michalski, who taught full time at Port Allen Middle for 32 years.  Conceived by the Milken Family Foundation to attract, retain and motivate outstanding talent to the teaching profession, the awards come with an unrestricted $25,000 prize. Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken, Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White, previous award recipients and community leaders were there recognize the exceptional work. Plaquemine High principal Chandler Smith also received the award Wednesday.

Two Louisiana educators received unexpected accolades — and a $25,000 cash prize each — when officials with the Milken Family Foundation showed up Wednesday at surprise school assemblies in West Baton Rouge and Iberville parishes, honoring the two with the coveted Milken Educator Awards. Jessica Major gasped and then fought back tears after her… Continue reading →

Higher ed leaders ‘shoot for the moon’ with $1.7 billion funding request

Higher education leaders are asking for $1.4 billion from the state Legislature next year for operating expenses — nearly twice what the state’s colleges and universities received this year. “Why not shoot for the moon?” asked Steve Smith, a member of the Louisiana Community and Technical College Board who serves as a representative on the Board of… Continue reading →

John Bel Edwards, David Vitter split on state takeover of troubled schools

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Democrat John Bel Edwards holds a press conference Sunday to talk about his runoff campaign against Republican Sen. David Vitter.

Republican David Vitter and Democrat John Bel Edwards offered sharply differing views on the state takeover of troubled public schools, according to comments to the Louisiana School Boards Association released Wednesday. Edwards, who squares off with Vitter in the Nov. 21 runoff for governor, stopped just short of calling for a moratorium on the state… Continue reading →

Louisiana again ranks near bottom in reading, math in recent national report card

Louisiana public school students ranged from 43rd to 49th nationally in reading and math in the latest installment of the nation’s report card, which was released late Tuesday night. The exam, called the National Assessment for Educational Progress, measured how select fourth- and eighth-graders did in reading and math. The results show that fourth-graders were… Continue reading →

John Bel Edwards, David Vitter are ‘night and day’ on major education issues: vouchers, charter schools, grading system

John Bel Edwards, left, and David Vitter

Democrat John Bel Edwards and Republican David Vitter have radically different ideas on how to improve Louisiana’s public schools. Edwards is a longtime ally of state teachers unions, which have bitterly opposed most of the sweeping school changes enacted since 2012. Vitter, a U.S. senator from Metairie, generally favors the business model for overhauling schools, with… Continue reading →

Meet 4 finalists scheduled to interview for LSU Provost opening

Four finalists in LSU’s search for a new executive vice president and provost will take part in on-campus interviews in the coming weeks. Former Provost Stuart Bell recently left LSU to become the new president at the University of Alabama. A national search has led LSU leaders to the four people to interview for… Continue reading →

Tarvald Smith’s election as Baton Rouge City Court judge to leave an opening on the School Board seat he now holds

Advocate staff file photo by PATRICK DENNIS --East Baton Rouge School Board member Tarvald Smith speaks during at a February board meeting.

Tarvald Smith’s surprise win Saturday night to become the newest judge on Baton Rouge City Court means his District 4 seat on the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board will soon become vacant. Smith said he is looking to join the City Court bench Nov. 16. He will take the place of Judge Alex “Brick” Wall,… Continue reading →