- Associated Press - Sunday, March 30, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana excluded magnet schools from this year’s nominations for the federal Education Department's Blue Ribbon School of Excellence honors.

Scott Thomas, head of Magnet Schools of America, said he does not know of any other state that has done this, The Advocate (http://bit.ly/1pER3pJ) reported.

It could be a move to devalue magnet schools and promote charter schools, he said. However, the five schools nominated for the honor did not include any charter schools - public schools run by private organizations.

The award honors the nation’s top schools and schools which have made significant improvements in student achievement.

The Advocate said it had asked the Louisiana Department of Education repeatedly since March 19 why it excluded magnet schools.

“This year the state chose to focus on non-selective schools and nominated the five schools meeting the criteria,” Barry Landry, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Education, wrote in a statement Saturday to the newspaper.

He did not immediately respond to an email Sunday from The Associated Press asking the reason for that decision.

He wrote the Advocate, “We look forward to nominating both selective and non-selective schools in future years.”

Magnet schools use specialized programs to attract a diverse set of students. Many, but not all, have selective admission criteria. Some charter schools also have selective criteria.

A stack of documents the state released earlier this month to state Reps. Pat Smith and Alfred C. Williams, both D-Baton Rouge, and former School Board members in Baton Rouge, included 11 nomination criteria. No. 11 is that it must “have not been designated as a magnet school.”

The lawmakers asked for the public records after Parkview Elementary was not nominated. It was added to the list March 13, the day The Advocate began asking state officials questions about why Parkview hadn’t been nominated. Williams is asking the state inspector general to investigate.

Private schools in Louisiana, many of which are highly selective, remain eligible for Blue Ribbon School of Excellence honors but are nominated via the Council for American Private Education. More than one-third of Louisiana’s past winners are private schools.

The government has put 145 Louisiana schools on the Blue Ribbon list since 1982. At least 29 have been magnet schools.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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