Letter: A+ Schools could change La.

In all of the discussion and debate about how to improve education in Louisiana, a New Orleans entity has boldly stepped forward with a model that has been successful in Oklahoma, North Carolina and Arkansas. It’s called A+ Schools and it has been brought to Louisiana by the George Rodrigue Foundation for the Arts.

This idea was born when former LSU Chancellor Michael Martin met with the iconic Louisiana artist George Rodrigue and his son, Jacques, in the summer of 2011. Martin had something he wanted to ask them for — but instead he heard an irresistible pitch about an educational program that could improve student learning through teacher training/development, then could be verified through research.

In a time of very scant resources, Chancellor Martin sent a team of LSU faculty, a Baton Rouge community member and an LSU dean to Oklahoma City in February 2012 to make a site visit of successful A+ Schools. The team was instantly sold — having witnessed huge increases in test scores, less truancy and most of all — children who wanted to be in school because of their ability to be creative.

There are seven schools signed on today in Louisiana — to improve education through arts integration that is tracked and verified through university research. Louisiana A+ Schools may be found in Baton Rouge, Shreveport, New Iberia, Monroe, Reserve and New Orleans.

The success of this program has come through its basis in faculty development/teacher training, validation and assessment through university research and the eight A+ essentials that are employed every day: arts, curriculum, experiential learning, multiple learning pathways, enriched assessment, collaboration, infrastructure and climate. More information is available on the Louisiana A+ Schools website.

So this past week in Baton Rouge, 25 trainers from Oklahoma joined 20 trainers from Louisiana to lead the entire faculties of seven Louisiana schools (over 200 teachers) through an intensive week of whole school professional development at LSU in order to turn education around in our state. Three LSU professors will be tracking the progress of these schools and the students.

LSU is providing office space for Louisiana A+ Schools in the Shaw Center, adjacent to the LSU Museum of Art — another entity that is making a bold stand for advancing education through creativity in Louisiana.

This is the first professional development conference for teachers of its size, duration and structure ever in Louisiana!

The George Rodrigue Foundation for the Arts deserves our support. They are moving boldly to deliver whole school transformation through ongoing professional development by A+ Fellows that focuses on collaborative research-based practices.

Laurence Kaptain, dean

College of Music and Dramatic Arts-LSU

Baton Rouge