The level of educational attainment drives the health status of a community. Research shows that people with higher education levels are healthier and live longer. The infant mortality rate for women who never graduated high school is nearly double that of women with college degrees. Because of this correlation between educational attainment and health, The Rapides Foundation continues to support education in Central Louisiana.
In 2012 the Foundation provided grants to the nine public school districts in the region to enhance their focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and Career and Technical Education (CTE). Districts used these grants for professional development, including training for new Common Core standards, participating in distance-learning activities and attending training sessions offered by The Orchard Foundation.
The Orchard Foundation is a nonprofit local education fund established by The Rapides Foundation. During 2012 it coordinated three summer institutes for approximately 85 educators of varying career levels. The institutes included Aspiring Leaders and Leading for Purposeful Instruction, conducted by the University of Washington’s Center for Educational Leadership; and Principal Training and in class teacher coaching, led by Kagan Structures.
These trainings address better teaching and learning in the schools, which resulted in better instruction for the students to yield better student outcomes.
The Orchard Foundation also coordinates the Central Louisiana Academic Residency for Teachers (CART), a site-based teacher program that takes qualified math and science graduates and pays their tuition as they work toward an LSU Master of Natural Science degree. The residents agree to teach in Central Louisiana high schools for three years after they receive their diploma. In 2012 the second group of CART residents completed their graduate degrees while the third group of 13 residents began their program. After the completion of the five-year CART project, 60 qualified math and science teachers will be teaching in Cenla high schools. The Rapides Foundation conceptualized the CART project to help Central Louisiana school districts with limited resources offer rigorous education in STEM. The Foundation’s partner, LSU, was awarded the U.S. Department of Education grant that funds the five-year project.