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WMU center hired to evaluate Louisiana schools

June 27, 2006

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University's Evaluation Center has been hired to evaluate the effectiveness of a sweeping education initiative supporting Central Louisiana school districts.

The Evaluation Center is conducting an analysis of the Systemic Initiative in Education in cooperation with the Gordon A. Cain Center at Louisiana State University. The evaluation began last fall and will continue through September 2010, a year after the Systemic Initiative has been completed.

The Rapides Foundation, which sponsors the education initiative, hired the WMU center to assist in the evaluation. In 2004, the foundation unveiled the Systemic Initiative in Education, a $10 million investment over the next five years in schools within nine parishes in Central Louisiana.

Dr. Gary Miron, Evaluation Center chief of staff, serves as director of the Louisiana evaluation effort. Other key staff from the Evaluation Center are Anne Cullen, who serves as project manager, and Dr. Liesel Ritchie, who joined the center at the onset of the project. The team from the Evaluation Center will be responsible for surveying teachers and administrators, as well as analyzing student achievement data, while the team from LSU will be responsible for site visits to schools.

Miron calls the initiative "a bold and comprehensive effort to improve student achievement through professional development and leadership development." He notes the initiative provides resources for districts to develop and nurture new instructional approaches to produce high student achievement.

According to Ritchie, the effort includes a particular emphasis on building and strengthening professional learning communities in the participating schools. The foundation's goal, she notes, is to promote school improvement by producing highly intellectual and challenging work for students, teachers and administrators, as well as developing a district culture that supports high achievement.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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