LSU Researchers Receive $8 Million Grant, Plus $8 Million in Matching Funds to Improve STEM Education in Central Louisiana

The grant is provided by U.S. Department of Education, matched by The Rapides Foundation, LSU, LSU-Alexandria, The Orchard Foundation and nine Central Louisiana school districts.

Central Louisiana, often referred to as Cenla, historically has a high poverty rate in its parishes, particularly in rural communities. Because of limited resources, school districts often have difficulty providing a rigorous education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. To rectify this situation, LSU, together with The Rapides Foundation, The Orchard Foundation, LSU-Alexandria and the Louisiana Department of Education, have established CART, the Central Louisiana Academic Residency for Teachers program.

CART, funded by an $8 million U.S. Department of Education grant with matching funds from LSU, The Rapides Foundation, The Orchard Foundation and LSU-Alexandria, as well as participating districts for a total of $16 million, represents a committed partnership of nine Cenla high poverty rural school districts: Allen, Avoyelles, Catahoula, Grant, LaSalle, Nachitoches, Rapides, Vernon and Winn. LSU and its Colleges of Arts & Sciences, Basic Sciences and Education will lead the effort and The Gordon A. Cain Center for Scientific, Technological, Engineering and Mathematical Literacy will provide evaluation services.

“We are excited and honored to lead this program and take a giant step toward improving STEM education in Cenla,” said Gary Byerly, principal investigator on the grant and Richard R. & Betty S. Fenton Alumni Professor of Geology & Geophysics. “LSU has a history of developing new and innovative procedures, techniques and training programs that improve the state of science and math education in K-12 schools.”

The CART program will increase student STEM achievement in the nine-parish Rapides Foundation service area by improving the quality and quantity of perspective new teachers. Sixty teachers will be recruited and prepared to teach advanced placement and dual enrollment mathematics and science courses, thus dramatically increasing the number of Cenla students having access to advanced, upper-level STEM coursework and instruction.

“Research has proven that a strong background in STEM fields leads to more opportunities for our students,” said Joseph R. Rosier Jr., president and CEO of The Rapides Foundation. ”Our foundation maintains a strong commitment to improving the lives of the people in Cenla, and building a better educational system for our youth builds a more solid foundation for the future of this area.”

“This collaborative partnership is a model for the future of teacher preparation,” said M. Jayne Fleener, dean of the College of Education. “University and community partners have come together to make an important investment in the future of Louisiana. We are all stakeholders and winners in this collaborative endeavor.”

There will be an intensive one-year site-based residency requirement for CART scholars, followed by a teacher induction model geared to retain more than 85 percent of new teachers in the CART program for the first three years of service. There are five major components to CART:

  1. Teacher residency: CART’s robust teacher preparation program emphasizes rigorous content delivery using research-based, effective teaching strategies. Candidates co-teach for one year alongside an outstanding mentor teacher to gain the competencies needed to teach effectively. During their first three years of teaching, the candidates are provided supportive induction services provided by the partners.
  2. Student achievement and continuous improvement: The overall goal of CART is to increase the number of students who are college- and workforce-ready by offering Advanced Placement/Dual Enrollment/International Baccalaureate coursework in the STEM fields.
  3. School leadership: CART provides leadership professional development to help build and strengthen the support structures necessary to attract and retain exemplary teachers.
  4. Selection process: Candidates can be recent college graduates or mid-career changers. They must hold an undergraduate degree in science, mathematics, engineering or other related field with 18 hours math or science content, earned a 3.0+ GPA, possess the qualities needed to teach effectively and be willing to reside and teach in a high-poverty, rural location for a minimum of three years.
  5. Broad-based partnership: The partners each bring unique attributes to the program to collectively ensure CART is successfully implemented and meets its goals.

“This is just another example that proves LSU isn’t just a Baton Rouge school – it’s
Louisiana’s state university,” said LSU Chancellor Michael Martin. “Securing such a high-dollar grant and utilizing those funds to strengthen the pillars of STEM education in Central Louisiana will have a tremendous impact on the future of education not just in that region, but in our state as a whole. However, current and impending budget cuts will eventually curtail our abilities to maintain this level of excellence in service to our state.”

"This is precisely the type of service that a flagship university offers its state,” said Blake Chatelain, chairman of the Board of Supervisors for the LSU System. “We are eager to see the positive impact this new teacher support, training and retention program will bring to Central Louisiana.”

The CART program is currently funded for five years, but that doesn’t mean it will end at the closure of the grant.

“We expect CART to be a great success,” said Byerly. “Once we have some measurable results and can prove the impact we’re having on Cenla students, I believe very strongly that we’ll be able to continue the program indefinitely.”

Frank Neubrander, project director and Demarcus D. Smith Alumni Professor of Mathematics, added, “The residual effects from CART will be significant as the program will also create an enduring leadership infrastructure that will nurture college-level AP/IB/dual enrollment mathematics and science course offerings within our partner districts, many of which have never had these opportunities.”

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