Friday, January 30, 2009

State sponsors 'Mission' program to aid student growth

By John Colvin
The Advocate

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana students who are not likely to earn a high school diploma are being given an opportunity to do so through a state-sponsored program.

Students from 14 school districts statewide have been chosen to participate in the Educational Mission to Prepare Louisiana's Youth, under the state Department of Education.

"These students are usually behind academically and struggle with social and emotional problems," said Ginger Weber, supervisor of career and technical education with the Ascension Parish School System, one of the school districts chosen for the program.

The districts were selected based on the number of at-risk students with reading levels where they can be remediated and trained.

Also taken into consideration were work force demands in their region, industry support for work-study opportunities and the capacity for training in high-demand fields at nearby Louisiana community and technical colleges.

"It gives them a second chance to get a GED and industry training along with a lot of soft skills training," Weber said.

The other school districts chosen were Assumption, Avoyelles, Bossier, Caddo, Calcasieu, Iberia, Jefferson, Ouachita, Rapides, St. Tammany, Terrebonne, Vermilion and Winn.

As part of the program, more than 500 students will have a chance to get paid work experience through the Louisiana Workforce Commission and business and industry partners. Those students will also be provided an adult mentor.

"When they leave us they have something other than a document," said Glenn Ledet, director of federal programs and secondary education for Assumption Parish schools.

State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek said the pilot program is based on initiatives already working in some parts of Louisiana and the nation.

Pastorek said the goal is to better prepare struggling students for further education and careers, and is part of a larger initiative to reduce high school dropouts in Louisiana.

"We have to do something immediately to support these struggling students so that they have the education and skills to succeed as adults," Pastorek said in a news release.

He said almost 16,000 students from the seventh to 12th grades are dropping out each year.

The students chosen must have a reading level of seventh grade or higher.

Ledet said they also are taking the opportunity to set up an aggressive reading program for those below seventh-grade levels.

Seven Assumption students and 17 Ascension Parish students will be involved in the program being implemented this month, said Ledet and Cathy Meredith, the Ascension director of secondary schools.

The state plans to use $2.55 million in existing funds, with federal funds and the support of business and industry, to implement the pilot program.

Courtesy of The Advocate

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