Mar 14, 2013 10:56 AM by AP

State to use $5M to turn around failing schools

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - State Superintendent John White says the state will use $5 million in federal professional development funds to train educators interested in turning around failing district-run schools.

The Times-Picayune reports the "Believe and Succeed" grants cover a year of advanced training for the new school leaders. White announced the initiative in February as part of his five-part plan for 2013, and said he expects relatively low participation in the first year, with perhaps just "dozens" of applicants competing for the grants, which will average $50,000.

With 198,000 Louisiana children in D or F schools, the state can't charter schools fast enough to make a real difference, White said. So an investment is needed in developing principals who can turnaround schools with traditional school districts.

"If we are really going to deliver on the promise we make to students, we have to accelerate the pace of change," he said on Wednesday.

State figures released in January show that 7 percent of the state's schools are charters. And viewing charters as only way to turnaround a failing school also shuts out some would-be reformers, White said.

For the winning grant recipients, the state education department is recommending five principal training programs: Building Excellent Schools, Columbia Summer Principals Academy NOLA, Leading Educators, New Leaders and the New Teacher Project. Most are open only to participants in the greater New Orleans and Baton Rouge regions. However, applicants may also choose other training programs or design their own.

Once their training is complete, White said he expects traditional districts to grant these new principals charter-like autonomy to run the troubled campuses, or as the application says, "substantial flexibility over hiring and firing, budgetary, curricular and other key decisions."


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