After conducting our information meetings regarding A+ Schools on June 4, 5 and 6 in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette, we encountered a few of the following Frequently Asked Questions that fit into the categories of "What is A+ Schools?" and "How does the A+ Schools Network work?"
Is A+ a one-time project?
No. The best way to describe A+Schools is as a marriage. As long as a school commits to the eight A+ Essentials, they have access to the entire network of A+ resources.
Is A+ a curriculum?
No. A+ can work with any curriculum already in place at any school. Additionally, with over 100 schools in the A+ Network nationwide, A+ Fellows are already trained on how to incorporate the A+ Essentials into the most popular school curricula.
Is A+ a model to train the trainers?
No. A+ is a system to train the entire school staff on how to nurture creativity in every learner. Research has proven that faculty engagement on a whole school level is crucial to student success.
Is A+ the only thing schools can do?
No. A+ is a framework supportive of any other tools and community partners that schools adopt. Schools are encouraged to seek out resources in their community that complement the A+ Essentials and provide better opportunities for their students.
Is A+ a "drive-by" professional development model that is out of context and without follow-up?
No. A+ offers ongoing site-specific professional development that is customized based on the needs and schedule of the school.
Is A+ only about arts-integration?No. While arts-integration is an essential component of A+ Schools, the power of the A+ model is in ALL eight of the A+ Essentials working together to produce successful schools.
Are all A+ Schools the same?
No. Every A+ school looks different and interprets the A+ Essentials in their own way. However, all A+ schools commit to providing quality education, everyday, for every student.
Is A+ the silver bullet for overnight success in all Louisiana schools?
No. While the A+ network gives a school the framework and tools needed for success, it is not an overnight answer. Full implementation of the A+ Essentials is a three year process, requiring a significant commitment from the leadership and faculty of a school.
Also, while in theory every school in the state could be an A+ school, this situation would be impractical and is NOT the goal of the A+ network. The model only works when a school itself seeks to be A+ and is not mandated to join the network by a higher authority. However, school districts, teachers and pre-service teaching institutions can learn from the success of A+ member schools and should seek to implement some of the A+ best practices in their methods.
What results should we expect from A+ in Louisiana?
The same results seen in other A+ states:
How does a school join the A+ Network?
Once Louisiana A+ Schools is formed, school principals will submit an application to the A+ Director. Schools must have at least 85% approval from their faculty and staff in order to apply. A+ schools must not be a mandate, but rather a choice made by a school as a whole to try a new path to success.
In Oklahoma, there is no cost to member schools to join the network. No money exchanges hands between Oklahoma A+ Schools and their member schools. Ideally, the Louisiana A+ network will work the same way.
What grade level and type of school can be an A+ School?
Any pre-k through 12 school in Louisiana is eligible. That means ANY urban, suburban, rural, public, private, parochial or charter school is welcome to apply.
What happens when a school joins the A+ Network?
Every spring, A+ Schools announces which new schools will be welcomed into the A+ Network. Following the announcement, a team from A+ Schools will visit each new member school for a consultation to understand what resources the schools already have in place and to work with the school to plan the type of professional development that A+ will provide.
Then, during the summer, at least 85% of the school staff gets training at the five-day Summer Institute. During the year, two more on-site professional development sessions also occur. Then, as long as a school remains committed to the A+ Essentials they will receive professional development both during the summer and during the year. Please review the implementation time line for Louisiana to learn more.
Will A+ work in Louisiana?
Research has definitively shown that students in Oklahoma A+ schools outperform their counterparts in non-A+ schools in all categories on state standardized tests. Qualitative data and reports from principals, teachers and students are even more convincing. What works in North Carolina, Oklahoma and Arkansas will work in Louisiana.
What is the role of GRFA in Louisiana A+ Schools?
In Oklahoma, the Kirkpatrick Foundation was the catalyst to bring the North Carolina A+ Schools model to their state. Once Oklahoma A+ started, the Kirkpatrick Foundation remained involved in an advisory capacity and lent their support to the A+ network. GRFA similarly sees its role as the catalyst to get the A+ network started in Louisiana and to provide ongoing support to Louisiana A+ Schools.
What is the role of LSU in Louisiana A+ Schools?
For 10 years, Oklahoma A+ Schools has had the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) in Oklahoma City as a higher education partner. UCO provides facilities for the A+ offices and trainings, employs the A+ staff which gives a support structure for A+ payroll and benefits, and makes available the expertise of a team to research the A+ Network on an ongoing and in-depth basis.
A+ sounds great, but how much does it cost?
The budget for Oklahoma A+ Schools to oversee ALL 70 schools in their network ranges from about $700,000 to $1,000,000 depending on how many schools are added to the network in a given year. That budget covers the cost for the time the A+ Fellows do their trainings and pays the support staff of Oklahoma A+ Schools (about 7 employees). GRFA eventually envisions a budget that size for Louisiana A+ Schools.
Therefore, when you look at how many schools, teachers and students are impacted for a relatively small budget, you can realize just how cost-effective the A+ Schools are.
How is A+ funded?
Oklahoma A+ Schools is funded by a public/private partnership of different organizations. The University of Central Oklahoma provides both in-kind and some monetary support. Other funding comes from private foundations and grants. Lastly, after operating for 3 years, Oklahoma A+ received a line item in the state's education budget which continues nearly every year. One of the jobs of the A+ Director is to raise enough funds to operate their programs. GRFA anticipates a similar funding structure for Louisiana A+ Schools.
Will GRFA be hosting any additional information sessions?Yes! GRFA is planning to host information sessions in Shreveport and Monroe. Please check back for details.
Isn't there already a statewide arts integration program in Louisiana?
Yes! The Louisiana Office of Cultural Development/Division of the Arts in the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism is currently in the third year of a four-year pilot program called the Imagination, Creativity and Innovation (ICI) initiative. ICI has a mission to nurture creativity in every learner through an integrated arts education and works with eight schools across the state. This initiative has laid the groundwork and started the excitement for arts integration in Louisiana. If an ICI school wants to continue and expand to the whole school level following the conclusion of the pilot program, they are welcome to apply to join the A+ network.
A+ Information Session at the GRFA Education Center with Jean Hendrickson, Executive Director of Oklahoma A+ Schools, and Dean Laurence Kaptain of the LSU College of Music and Dramatic Arts. Other informational meetings were held at the Louisiana Governor's Mansion in Baton Rouge and at the Contemporary Art Center in Lafayette during the week of June 4th.
"The GRFA has immensely impacted my art along with my life. People seem to react and appreciate my submission for the foundation. I have offers of people wanting prints of my artwork and, not to sound cheesy and cliche, but opportunity just keeps on knocking. I'm really really appreciative that my art teacher introduced this contest to me and that I decided to be bold by creating something beautiful for this foundation, and to be honored for my creativity! I can't thank to GRFA office and George and Wendy Rodrigue enough for this amazing opportunity that I will always remember and carry proudly with me throughout my creative career."
- Jacob Broussard