Rather than hiring Dallas-based Grade Results, the East Baton Rouge Parish school system plans to seek proposals from a variety of online education services to see which is best to offer Internet-based coursework for students who have dropped out or who are in danger of dropping out of school.
Superintendent Bernard Taylor asked the School Board for the delay Thursday night, just as the board was about to take up his proposal to hire Grade Results.
While generally supportive of the idea, several board members balked on Sept. 18 when Taylor first approached them about hiring the company, saying they needed more options and wondered whether there were other companies that could do it better.
Taylor plans to return to the board with the matter in November after he can evaluate responses to the request for proposals.
Taylor said Thursday that at least 40 students have expressed interest in signing up, but he will hold off enrolling them until the School Board picks a vendor.
Taylor initially had pushed to get the program running so that dropouts who returned to the school system could be counted on Oct. 1, one of two official enrollment counts the state conducts of public schools. Each added student means thousands of dollars in additional per-pupil funding from the state.
Under the program, students would come to school for half-days and take tests in school under a teacher’s supervision but could do the bulk of their work online, outside of school, any time of the day. Taylor said Thursday that while he wants students to come to school every day to touch base with educators tracking their progress, students should have flexibility about how they work their half-days.
He said the online service the school system ultimately hires will keep a record of when the students are working and the service should have an educator on call any time of day to help students when they have problems.
The program would allow students the chance to earn more credits in a shorter period of time than they would in high school. The school system likely would get increased graduation rates, and the new program likely would free schools from having some of the more challenging students in their classrooms.
Grades for current students who transfer into the program no longer would be included when the state calculates their former high school’s performance scores. However, their scores still would be counted in the alternative school in which they are enrolled as part of the program and again when the entire district’s performance score is calculated.
The goal of Moving Forward is to sign up 150 students initially: 50 who already have dropped out and 100 who are in school now but are in danger of dropping out. Students in the latter group need to be at least 17 years old and have five or fewer course credits, a description that fits about 250 students.
In other action Thursday, the board voted unanimously to buy back for $250,000 improved property near LSU it sold 48 years ago to the Baton Rouge Speech & Hearing Foundation as a vacant lot for $5,000. The school system had the option to buy back the property if it ever came for sale, which it did.
The money for the purchase is coming from the system’s general operating fund. The foundation is relocating.
The building at 535 W. Roosevelt Street is to be converted immediately to prekindergarten classrooms to ease overcrowding next door at University Terrace Elementary.