Perhaps more – or at least as rattling – than what implications charter schools, vouchers and teacher evaluations are placing on public education are these two buzz words: school choice.
Course Choice is part of the state's recently enacted education reform bill, and the Morehouse Parish School Board was introduced to the generalities of the adoption during its Aug. 7 meeting.
Next year the state of Louisiana's department of education will publish a catalogue of “providers,” a qualification given to those individuals the state deems able to teach a credited course to at least one student.
All students will be eligible to participate in Course Choice. Districts will be obliged to accept courses completed and passed as long as they are approved state courses (from the catalogue).
It includes classes offered online, post-secondary courses and industry-run internships; teachers must be La. certified.
Course choice is conditional and complicated, and “We're in uncharted waters,” acknowledged David Nordman, MPS secondary curriculum supervisor, during his presentation last week.
School choice is aimed at giving students and parents more autonomy over their course subjects, and it appears to be particularly designed to combat failing schools.
Like school vouchers, and in some cases, charter schools, a district can stand to lose per-pupil funds for classes ($1,393 per course, and up to five courses) depending upon a particular school receiving a “failed” ranking by the state.
If, for example, a student attends a failing school (rated C, D or F), he or she can elect to take “limitless” courses, according to documents, outside the school by another provider and receive credit for it, if passed.
But on the other hand, a district also could stand to increase its funds and recruit more students by becoming a provider of more courses.
A significant stipulation in the Course Choice Program empowers students to take courses – perhaps an advanced physics course or engineering class – that may not be offered at the school they attend.
That means a school could look to offer the class online or after school in its computer lab by one of its teachers, for example.
“It's a situation that we can't sit back and not make an effort to be competitive – and I don't know how to do that right now,” Nordman said.
Individuals or institutions looking to get approved in the course catalogue have until Nov. 16 to apply. The state has indicated that the first year of courses will focus on college credit , core academic and career and technical education offerings.
The catalogue is targeted to be published in January 2013.
Nordman said the pivotal step, or “bottom line” for MPS is to ensure all its schools earn a A or B ranking from the state, which has revised its evaluation standards and process starting in 2013.
“There's no reason to panic, but we all need to be aware of what's coming,” he cautioned.