BESE committee debates whether Lycée Français students should have French profiency as a condition of admission

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The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) School Innovation and Turnaround Committee Tuesday took a step toward tightening prerequisites for a French immersion school in New Orleans. - SARAH GAMARD
  • SARAH GAMARD
  • The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) School Innovation and Turnaround Committee Tuesday took a step toward tightening prerequisites for a French immersion school in New Orleans.

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) School Innovation and Turnaround Committee Tuesday took a step toward tightening prerequisites for a French immersion school in New Orleans.

The school, Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans, wants to require students have a certain level of proficiency in French before admitting them to its French immersion program where classes are taught in French instead of English.


Opponents of the policy argued that a language test before admittance would further disadvantage students with special needs and learning disabilities.

Lycée Français CEO Keith Bartlett said 9 percent of the school’s students currently qualify as special needs, with 5 percent having “severe disabilities” such as autism spectrum or hearing impairment.

Bartlett said it is important to require some level of entering proficiency because placing children in a classroom where the language is completely foreign sets them up to fail.

State School Superintendent John White seemed to agree. He said the majority of dual language and immersion programs already conduct the testing that Lycée Français was asking for because, at a certain point, one cannot teach students a language they do not know.

But board member Doris Voitier argued the reverse is already happening throughout Louisiana — non-English speaking students are attending schools that teach in English. And the committee voted to recommend the pre-requisite.

In other action, the committee:

  • Deferred an extension of the charter contract for Northshore Charter School in Bogalusa to next month. White said BESE is “not fully comfortable” with the performance of Northshore Charter School, but it is in a neighborhood with few other schools, and they are performing at Ds and Fs levels. Several school proponents testified the need in Bogalusa for the school.

  • Deferred to a memorandum of understanding between the Caddo Parish School System and the Recovery School District for a school whose charter was unapproved for next year. The district, White said, is in a "crisis" on how to allocate its resources, suffering from ongoing issues such as teacher vacancies.

  • Received the surrender of Kipp Central City Academy’s charter, which is merging with KIPP Central City Primary in New Orleans and will operate with it as one school starting in July.

  • Recommended that Impact Charter Elementary, a K-5 school in Baker, be permitted to add sixth through eighth grades.

The entire Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meets Wednesday to consider the recommendations.


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