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Lafayette Parish School System Transformation Zone
On June 19, 2018, the Louisiana Department of Education awarded the Lafayette Parish School System a $1.2 million grant. The program is a product of the recent Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA). One provision in the legislation provides funding for low performing schools. In Louisiana, these are schools with letter grades of D or F; they are labeled as Comprehensive Intervention Required (CIR). In Lafayette Parish, these schools are Alice Boucher Elementary, J.W. Faulk Elementary, Lafayette Middle, Carencro Heights Elementary, Carencro High, Northside High, and N.P. Moss Preparatory School. The $1.2 million award to Lafayette was the 3rd largest in the state for this grant cycle.
The goal of the grant is to increase student achievement through the sound implementation of a Tier 1 curriculum, by providing in-depth professional development to teachers on best practices and curriculum implementation, and by providing professional development to leaders through the National Institute for School Leadership (NISL). School districts applying for the grant were required to submit a detailed plan and budget addressing each of these three components. The requirement that schools implement a curriculum with a Louisiana Department of Education Tier 1 rating in grades K-12 required a change in ELA curriculum at these schools, and the bulk of funds in the grant will be used for the purchase of curriculum materials and professional development on curriculum implementation.
During the process of preparing the Lafayette grant application, staff conducted a detailed analysis of data from the seven targeted schools. They found four things in common at all seven schools. There is a high turnover among faculty and leadership at these schools. Teacher absenteeism at these schools is more frequent than at other schools. There is a higher than average percentage of teachers at these schools teaching outside their area of certification. Finally, there is a high rate of truancy among students.
The idea of a “Transformation Zone” emerged from the staff’s development of a plan to match the basic goals of the grant and address the common issues revealed through the data analysis. The final plan called for the district to create a new department whose sole focus would be increasing achievement in CIR schools, or schools in the new Transformation Zone. The department includes a social worker to help meet students’ social and emotional needs, a community liaison to assist with truancy and community outreach, 16 master teachers assigned to schools who will each coach and mentor 15-20 teachers, and an executive master teacher who will oversee the master teachers and support the implementation of a new curriculum.
The school district has provided additional support to the Transformation Zone above and beyond the scope of the grant in the form of funds committed to professional development and other resources. These schools have also had great support from the community, in particular from the Pugh Family Foundation and the Schumacher Group in providing tutoring services at Alice Boucher Elementary and J.W. Faulk Elementary.
Acting Chief Academic Officer Irma Trosclair said, “Staff worked hard to create a strategic plan that would best support teaching and learning in all Transformation schools. Through the pairing of awarded grant money with district financial support and human capital, schools are in a position to best support student growth and achievement.”
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