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Officials hope law helps ‘Race to Top’ bid

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By WILL SENTELL,  Advocate Capitol News Bureau

Louisiana’s second bid for “Race to the Top” dollars will be aided by a law enacted last week that overhauls the way public school teachers are evaluated, state Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek said Tuesday.

“We are well positioned, and I think our prospects are very good,” Pastorek said.

The deadline for second-round applications was Tuesday.

The state lost out on its initial bid for some of the $4.4 billion in federal dollars.

The contest has been touted by federal officials as a way to award education innovation.

Louisiana was one of 16 finalists in the first round. But the state finished 11th in reviews announced on March 29.

Only Tennessee and Delaware landed grants then.

State officials initially hoped to win $314 million. The top  prize now is $175 million.

Pastorek said he thinks 24-30 states will put in applications for the $3.8 billion in remaining money.

Winners are expected to be announced in late July or early August.

Last week lawmakers gave final approval to a bill that will require public schoolteachers to undergo annual evaluations.

The measure will also link the growth of student achievement to half of a teacher’s review.

Teachers who fail to show improvements can be fired.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, who backs the state’s bid, signed the bill into law the same day that it cleared its final legislative hurdle.

Pastorek said enactment of the teacher evaluation measure  is the most significant change in Louisiana’s application.

“There are six or seven states that have adopted laws similar to Louisiana’s,” he said.

“But our law is very competitive with those states,” Pastorek said.

“And I think it addresses the issue of statewide impact, which is one of the critical issues that the reviewers had with our (initial) application,” he said.

The Louisiana Federation of Teachers has endorsed the state’s bid. The Louisiana Association of Educators, the state’s other key teacher union, declined to do so.

Pastorek said that, while the LAE declined to back Louisiana’s proposal, some of its local affiliates have done so.

LFT President Steve Monaghan said his group backs the application, with some reservations and a nod toward local autonomy.

“We are not in a position to deny them an opportunity to take part if they choose,” Monaghan said of local districts.

He said the fact that the maximum winnings this time is $175 million may cause some local districts to not take part.

Under the state’s plan, half of any money won would be allocated to the 28 districts, including East Baton Rouge Parish School District, and 56 charter schools that volunteered to make major changes in exchange for federal aid.

The other 50 percent of the money would be used for statewide school initiatives.


Written by demon53

June 2, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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