A new federal pilot program in Baton Rouge — one of nine such programs nationally — will enable officials to provide extra services, support and career coaching to a group of students at two alternative schools in an effort to boost academic performance and graduation rates.
The federal interagency Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth, or P3, will give Baton Rouge-area governmental agencies greater flexibility in how they use federal dollars from a number of sources in order to design the pilot program. Researchers will track the progress of the roughly 80 to 100 students throughout the three-year pilot program, comparing their performance on a number of measures with that of other students, to determine if the initiative boosts educational achievement.
Officials involved in the program hope the pilot program, which will begin in January with students at Greenville and Northdale superintendent’s academies, eventually will provide a model for how to more effectively use federal funds to support at-risk students. Those two schools serve students who are at least two grade levels behind their peers.
“I really believe this has the capacity to really change lives,” said Judith Rhodes, assistant professor of research at LSU’s Office of Social Service Research and Development, which is helping coordinate the program.
The P3 program will bring in a college and career coach, who will meet with students, parents and teachers to develop an individualized “success plan” for each student, Rhodes said, and provide each student with guidance into a future career path.
An advisory committee composed of the participating agencies — the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, Baton Rouge Community College and LSU, as well as officials with the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Juvenile Services and Employ BR — will oversee the program, along with a full-time project manager, said Adonica Pelichet Duggan, a spokeswoman for the school system.
Each of those agencies gained leeway in how they use existing funding from the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Labor. For example, Baton Rouge Community College will be able to work with middle school students under an existing federal grant that normally serves only high schoolers, Rhodes said.
“It’s a leveraging of funds so that they work better together,” Rhodes said. “For the most part, it’s making the funds that we already have more effective.”
The career coach will continue to follow students as they graduate high school and pursue jobs or additional education, Duggan said.
A portion of the program will involve providing professional development to teachers at Greenville and Northdale, Rhodes said.
By tracking the students in the program and comparing them with a randomized control group, researchers hope to provide a rigorous evaluation of whether the program is effective in keeping kids in school, boosting graduation rates and improving post-graduation prospects for the students. If the results turn out how Rhodes and others involved in the program hope, the pilot P3 program could be rolled out elsewhere.
Federal Department of Education officials “want to see what works,” Rhodes said. “They want to be able to scale it up and replicate it in other areas.”
Other pilot sites under the P3 program include Chicago, Los Angeles, Oklahoma, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo tribal entity in Texas and Broward County, Florida. Each site is implementing dramatically different initiatives all aimed at low-income youth between the ages of 14 and 24.