ExxonMobil provides $275,000 to East Baton Rouge Parish schools for special teacher training

11 11, 2014 by The Advocate

ExxonMobil announced Monday it will spend $275,000 to pay for up to 350 math, science and English teachers in East Baton Rouge Parish public middle and high schools to undergo training next summer.

The goal is to help high school students master these subjects so they can earn college credit via Advanced Placement courses, earn a college degree and ultimately help fill future jobs in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields.

The training is being conducted by the National Math and Science Initiative, a nonprofit based in Dallas and supported by a who’s who of corporate donors and philanthropic organizations. This program, known as Laying The Foundation, is scheduled to continue through 2017 with four-day training sessions each summer. But ExxonMobil, via its charitable arm, is paying only for the first year.

“This gets us started,” explained Stephanie Cargile, a spokeswoman for ExxonMobil. “We’re hoping that the community steps up after they see the impact that NMSI makes.”

ExxonMobil Baton Rouge has long supported local public education but has been looking for a broader way to have an impact on how teachers are trained, Cargile said.

Gregg Fleisher, NMSI’s chief academic officer, said often school districts will see the value of summer training and continue paying for it out of their own budgets.

The training aims to connect what teachers do in the early grades with the skills students need to do well on Advanced Placement tests and then do well in college and in their future careers.

Besides training, teachers receive hundreds of prepared lessons.

“This is going to give you more classroom-ready lessons at a rigorous standard than anyone else,” Fleisher said.

The $275,000 grant is being handled by the school system’s own charitable foundation, Foundation for EBRSS.

Besides training and lessons, NMSI identifies standout teachers to serve as “champions,” whom the school system will empower to keep working with teachers to improve their practice. Fleisher said NMSI carefully reviews the commitment before agreeing to offer the training.

“If we don’t think we can get community support from the school system, we won’t go there,” he said.

In a statement, Superintendent Bernard Taylor declared his support, calling the training “an important initiative in the effort to continue the academic success we have experienced over the past several years.”

Hundreds of schools across the U.S., including two in north Louisiana, have gone further by purchasing and using NMSI’s much broader College Readiness Program, which provides more ongoing support and resources for teachers as well as financial awards for students, teachers and participating schools. NMSI College Readiness school touts big gains in passage rates on Advanced Placement exams for all students, particularly noting the gains made by female, Hispanic and African-American students. Fleisher said these gains have been verified through several independent research studies.