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|Initiative riddled with uncertainty|
A state plan to transform underperforming public schools has raised more questions than answers, according to school officials in Franklin Parish.
Superintendent Lanny Johnson said few details have filtered down to local boards in state superintendent Paul Pastorek's plan to take part in "Race to the Top," a federal education initiative to encourage school development and growth.
"There aren't a whole lot of concretes in the plan yet," Johnson said.
The Race to the Top is spearheaded by the U.S. Dept.. of Education and involves distribution of some $4.4 billion in federal stimulus money.
But the money comes with a catch, Johnson said.
Boards must agree to take the lowest performing five percent of schools and turn them over to state control, convert them to charter schools, privatize them, or close them and send the students elsewhere.
Johnson also said that the plan might not be voluntary.
"I don't think they'll make it voluntary if they get the money," Johnson said.
Whether 'Race to the Top' becomes policy or not will depend on the BESE board. However, changes are coming whether the state participates in the program or not.
Johnson said he expected BESE to mandate a 10 percent increase in state performance levels.
Currently, state regulations require 60 percent of students to score basic or above for the school to be deemed acceptable. The new plan could push that number as high as 75 percent scoring basic, a number Johnson said would put a couple of parish schools in the unacceptable category.
If that happens, the school will have very little time to improve test scores before a state takeover.
Johnson said he believes the Race to the Top[ competition is a push by both the state board and the Obama administration to increase the number of charter schools. Johnson noted Pastorek, the president and U.S. Sec. of Education Arnie Duncan have all voiced support for the charter school movement.
Of course, I don't know what happens when you take all of your schools into charter schools," Johnson said. "You end up with a lot of what you have now."