Education group visits schools in Baton Rouge, New Orleans (Video)

Officials of a state education group visited public schools in Baton Rouge and New Orleans on Monday to encourage high goals for students and more involvement by parents and community leaders.

The push, called Stand for a Dream, is being organized by the group Stand for Children, which is headed by Rayne Martin, a former top official of the state Department of Education.

The organization says it advocates for rigorous education standards and access to highly effective teachers.

The group’s brochures say that 77 percent of fourth-graders and 79 percent of eighth-graders in Louisiana are unable to read at grade level.

Derrius Montgomery, Baton Rouge organizer, visited three state-run public schools on Monday, including Lanier Elementary School.

“It is just to bring awareness to the whole community that they have just as much voice as I do,” Montgomery said. “And making sure that their kids have access to quality education.”

Carrie Griffin Monica, a spokeswoman for the group, said the campaign stemmed from a series of focus groups with parents last fall.

Monica said parents said they would stop at nothing to aid their children.

“Unfortunately, they also told us that they didn’t know what those actions were that they should be taking or how to do it,” Monica wrote in an email.

Troubled public schools in north Baton Rouge are the focus of attention by state and local officials.

Last week the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved up to 10 new charter schools for East Baton Rouge Parish, in part to improve performance at seven struggling public schools that make up the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone.

Lanier, which has about 400 students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, is in its second year in the Recovery School District, which means it had years of academic problems before being taken over.

“Parental involvement has not been a problem,” said Alicia Franklin, the second-year principal of the school.

Franklin said encouraging students to pursue their dreams fifth-graders used chalk to outline their goals on a walkway outside the school is a worthwhile pursuit.

“The mission of the RSD is to make sure that our students are college and career ready,” Franklin said. “At this age it is very important that out kids know that today I am in the fifth grade, tomorrow I may be a doctor. You know, there are endless possibilities in their life.”

Montgomery said that, aside from meeting with students, his group plans to distribute information to parents on the state of public schools.

Chancelee Muse, who teaches fifth-grade math and science at Lanier, said students will be encouraged that educators and others are investing in their long-range goals in the second week of the school year.

“I think it just gives them something to look forward to,” Muse said.