Charter Pulse

Selected readings on US charter schools

LOUISIANA: Students Begin to Shape Their Own Education

school-choiceWhen most students head back to school, they are handed a pre-selected list of classes. But things are different for some students in Louisiana this fall.

Through the state’s new Course Choice initiative, students can choose more than just one or two electives – they can enroll in multiple classes of their choice, ranging from carpentry to AP calculus, and use public dollars to cover the cost.

As of August 21st, more than 3,700 students across Louisiana had requested enrollment in about 90 courses for the 2013-2014 school year. According to the Department of Education, the most popular classes are foreign language, Algebra, biology, and ACT preparation.

So what exactly is the Course Choice initiative?

The Course Choice initiative is a statewide K-12 education program that provides students with expanded course offerings, and allows students to select their courses, one by one, from a wide variety of providers. The state-approved course providers are both private and public and offer online, face-to-face, and blended courses that fall into three categories: career training, advanced academic or college courses, and test preparation. Although the program is available to all K-12 students, high schoolers are expected to use the program most.

A Student-Centered Solution

The Course Choice initiative is an innovative solution to some of the current challenges facing Louisiana schools – mainly a lack of consistent quality educational options available to students.

For example, according to the Department of Education’s Course Choice fact sheet:

  • 106 school sites across the state did not have a teacher on-site certified to teach Algebra I during the 2011-2012 school year;
  • Nearly half of Louisiana’s students currently do not have access to AP courses; and
  • Louisiana ranks 49th in the nation in the percentage of public high school students who earn college credit.

The Course Choice initiative was created to address these types of issues and level the playing field by giving all students access to courses that will best prepare them for success in college and career.

But who pays for it?

Students attending public schools (including charter schools) that have been rated C, D, or F, by the state are fully funded by the state to participate in the Course Choice program. Students that attend A or B rated schools can also participate in Course Choice at no cost if the course they enroll in is not offered at their home school.

And all other students – including students who attend private schools or who are home-schooled – can also participate in Course Choice, but they are required to pay the tuition charged by the course provider.

Although Louisiana’s Course Choice initiative is unique, other states have tried similar programs. Perhaps most notable is Utah’s Statewide Online Education Program, created in 2011, which offers online classes to all high school students in the state through public school districts that act as course providers.

Letting students choose the courses they want to take empowers students to personalize their education and pursue their interests. It also gives all students the ability to take classes beyond the walls of their school – resulting in robust educational options for every child.

Source: StudentsFirst (blog) – Justine Jacob

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This entry was posted on September 19, 2013 by in Charter Schools, Louisiana, School choice.

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