Message from the Superintendent: April 2014

CSC-GraceKing1Our work at the Jefferson Parish Public School System (JPPSS) has always centered on the key tenets of setting high expectations for all students and ensuring that we are meeting the needs of every child. Research consistently demonstrates that having high expectations for students is a powerful influence on student performance and leads to higher academic achievement, even if these students performed poorly in the past. An example of high expectations and its impact on student achievement can be seen in the work done by Mass Insight and others on expanding access to challenging Advanced Placement (AP) courses to students of low-income or minority backgrounds. In fact, various studies have shown that students who take AP classes and exams in high school are more likely to enroll in and graduate from college.

To improve the college- and career-readiness of our students, JPPSS began a partnership with Mass Insight last year to implement a new Advanced Placement (AP) initiative that would expand access to and support for AP classes. Almost a full year into the program, we have already seen great success.

Three high schools piloted the program in 2013-14: Grace King, Fisher, and West Jefferson. While West Jefferson spent this year focusing on pre-AP teacher training, Grace King and Fisher have implemented the initiative more fully, increasing the number of AP courses offered by 250 percent and the enrollment of students in AP classes by more than 300 students. The newly offered AP classes are focused on the important subjects of math and science, including chemistry, statistics, calculus, and physics; we also added English.

CSC-GraceKing2In addition to getting more students to take AP classes, the initiative offers added support to both students and teachers to ensure that students are successful not just in their AP class and exam, but also in their pursuit of higher education. One component of this programming is the Saturday Study Session, where students attend a series of workshops that are taught by instructors brought in by Mass Insight and that further cover AP course material. Based on the responses from our students and instructors, I’m confident that these sessions, along with the other program components of the AP Initiative, will result in a higher number of our students passing the AP exam and increasing their level of preparedness as they consider enrollment in post-secondary education.

Another innovative approach to improve student learning in Jefferson Parish is to use blended learning models, which combine direct instruction from teachers with different forms of online learning. Some schools, including Bonnabel Magnet Academy and Grace King High School, have been using programs like Khan Academy to deliver personalized support to their students. Next school year, with the support of the Believe & Succeed grant from the state, we will be extending the use of blended learning models through a partnership with TrueSchool Studio. The partnership will provide teacher training, materials, and support on blended learning at two schools: Mildred Harris Elementary and Truman Middle. We are excited to see what types of innovative teaching and learning will occur at Harris and Truman with the support of TrueSchool Studio in the next year.

These are just some of the important initiatives underway in Jefferson Parish that aim to set high expectations for every child, and to provide the support they need to meet those expectations. I look forward to keeping you up to date on our progress as we continue our efforts to serve every child’s needs at every Jefferson Parish Public School.