BATON ROUGE, La. (BESE)- The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) today approved the annual operation of 125 alternative education programs and 34 schools, 10 of which were vetted through the state’s new, more robust authorization process. The new authorization process aims to ensure all sites have comprehensive plans in place to serve students’ behavioral and academic needs.
“We applaud the innovative providers that sought approval under this new system,” said State Superintendent John White. “These pioneering sites have committed to implementing a comprehensive system of support that combines strong academics, pathways to life after high school, and resources for social and emotional growth for participating students.”
Alternative education services provide students the opportunity to remediate behavior and/or bolster academic achievement in an environment that meets their individual needs. These legally required services are offered through alternative schools and alternative programs, which are reviewed and approved annually by BESE according to state law.
In October 2018, BESE raised the bar for what is expected of alternative education sites to be authorized to more accurately measure student learning and expectations at these unique sites. The new authorization process requires school systems to explain how their alternative education placement will ensure appropriate transitions between traditional schools and alternative education sites, base alternative education planning on student data, develop comprehensive plans that address both behavioral and academic needs, and rely on evidence-based practices, including targeted professional development for educators who serve at such sites.
The new process will be phased in over the next three years, beginning in 2019. The 10 sites, which include eight schools and two programs across the state, approved today were the first to voluntarily navigate the new process.
They include Oceans Day Program (Calcasieu Parish); Arlington Preparatory Academy, EBR Readiness Superintendent Academy and Northdale Academy (East Baton Rouge Parish); Central Southwest Alternative High School (Office of Juvenile Justice); Restorative Practices Program (Orleans Parish); Red River Academic Academy (Red River Parish); Sherrouse School (City of Monroe School District); JCFA East and JCFA West.
The 10 pioneering sites will:
- Implement evidence-based behavioral interventions that target the underlying causes of referral, as well as academic interventions that lead to academic progress;
- Adopt high-quality curricula and emphasize social-emotional learning in daily instruction;
- Ensure equitable access to college and career pathways;
- Identify community partners to provide services beyond the capacity of the site staff, including but not limited to counseling, family engagement, and mental health supports; and
- Provide specialized staffing and appropriate professional development to support the unique needs of all students.
“JCFA has supported non-traditional students through alternative education options for nine years,” said JCFA Executive Director Millie Harris. “We applaud the state for proactively engaging alternative programs and schools to address the mental and behavioral health needs of all students while strengthening instructional practices. JCFA is excited to continue our work with local school districts throughout south Louisiana.”
The new authorization process was part of a larger package of alternative education policy revisions and efforts by the Louisiana Department of Education to renew schools’ approach to behavioral intervention. In October 2018, BESE also adopted a new accountability framework that will go into effect for all alternative education schools in the 2019-2020 school year.
The Department has since provided resources and strategies to assist school systems with implementation of the new alternative education policies. In January 2019, for example, the Department hosted the first-ever Behavioral Intervention Summit for educators statewide, and later awarded grant federal grant funding to schools with high rates of out-of-school referrals and persistently low student performance.
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