GO FIGURE: Demand Outstrips Supply For Course Choice Program

From a Louisiana Department of Education press release comes something that ought to be no surprise to anyone; namely, that the new Course Choice program that arose as part of the Jindal administration’s 2012 education reform package has more people signing up than there is funding to supply. It’s one more example of how people are doing everything they can to escape all or part of the state’s failed traditional-model schools and improve education for their kids.

Cue Bob Mann, the teachers’ unions and the rest of the status quo crowd to somehow spin this as a failure…

The Department of Education today announced that, three weeks after being authorized by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), the Course Choice pilot program has exceeded capacity enrollment, exhausting the $2 million in funding available. More than 2,000 families and counselors have registered students for courses through the 2013-2014 school year pilot program. Currently, approximately 500 additional families remain on a waitlist.

“Enrollment requests have exceeded our expectations,” said State Superintendent John White. “In order to provide families on waitlists with the courses they have requested for their children, we are going to have to find additional funds.”

The Course Choice program provides educational opportunities to students across the state that are currently denied the ability to enroll in the high-quality courses necessary for college or career preparation because they are not available at their local school. This program allows students to go beyond the four walls of high school and provides the option to enroll in courses ranging from core academic studies to career and technical classes. This program directly aligns with Louisiana Believes, the state’s plan to ensure all students are on track for college or a career, by empowering those closest to them to make decisions on their behalf. Course Choice empowers students to proactively tailor their education to their academic needs while working directly with families and educators to make sure these courses are academically appropriate for students.

At their June meeting, The Department and BESE approved funding for a pilot alternative as a result of the Louisiana Supreme Court ruling on Act 2 earlier this year. When the pilot was announced, all previous registrations were cleared – students and parents were required to re-register for courses based on new pilot program parameters and availability. Due to the limited budget involved and the successful partnership between districts, schools and providers in pinpointing courses that met students’ specific academic needs, Course Choice capacity for the 2013-2014 school year was met less than a month after receiving funding.

Families on the waitlist will receive notification as space or additional funding becomes available. Enrollment will continue until the end of the Add/Drop period at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, at which time families will receive final notification regarding their student’s enrollment status.

“We can provide smaller, rural parishes access to quality foreign language and math courses essential for their students to graduate and qualify for TOPS and proceed to college. Our Career and Technical Center has the capacity to educate them for the workforce and get them ready for high-wage job sectors. We should not limit funding for this program when students and schools are just learning how Course Choice can help them,” said Dr. Lonnie Luce, Superintendent of St. James Parish.

“The Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts and the Department of Education have partnered for more than 15 years to provide quality web-based learning through the Louisiana Virtual School. ¬†With the move toward a variety of providers and expanded opportunities for students and parents through Course Choice, I am excited that the LSMSA Virtual School will continue much of the LVS curriculum, especially AP courses and foreign languages, and offerings for gifted students,” said Dr. Patrick Widhalm, LSMSA Executive Director. “Our only regret is that we have hundreds more students who want to take Course Choice courses from our Louisiana teachers, but the pilot program funding won’t support the academic aspirations of these students.”

The pilot for the 2013-2014 school year limits offerings to high school-level Carnegie credit courses. Thirty eight approved providers are currently offering a wide variety of in-person, blended, and online high-school level courses. These course providers include Louisiana-based Associated Builders and Contractors in Baton Rouge, St. James Parish schools and the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, as well as national course providers like Princeton Review and Rocket Learning Partners. Students across the state have chosen to enroll in courses that range from world languages (Spanish, French) to core academic courses like Algebra 1, Biology and Chemistry, craft training courses like Welding and Electrical, and electives like Fine Arts, Digital Arts and ACT Test Prep.

For more information on the Course Choice program click here or visit www.louisianacoursechoice.net.

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