MIAMI -- Fort Polk Progress Chairman Michael Reese and Fort Polk Deputy Garrison Commander Johnny Bevers recently sat on a panel at the Installation Innovation Forum 2019--hosted by the Association of Defense Communities--during the Engaging with Your K-12 Schools to Promote Quality Education session March 5 in Miami.
"After many years of attending Association of Defense Communities forums, learning best practices from other defense communities, and implementing those strategies, we were excited to be asked to showcase our Education Initiative as a model for others to follow," Reese said.
The Installation Innovation Forum connects installation leadership with their community partners and industry experts to share ideas and acquire knowledge on ways to promote the advancement of innovation at military installations and their surrounding communities.
During the panel discussion--which focused on education--Reese spoke on the accomplishments of the Education Initiative, which is spearheaded by Fort Polk Progress in partnership with Vernon Parish and Beauregard Parish schools, the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, the Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce and community stakeholders.
Bevers explained the importance of both high education outcomes and academic rigor as well as marketing those achievements to soldiers who may be assigned to Fort Polk. In addition, he stressed the importance of attracting the best in the Army to be trainers at Fort Polk and how important work in education is to attracting those soldiers.
The Education Initiative aims to improve school performance and educate parents on school curriculum in Vernon Parish and Beauregard Parish school districts, which have a large population of military-connected students enrolled.
"During our presentation we focused on the recent outcomes of the National Math and Science Initiative Advanced Placement grants that we implemented in both Vernon and Beauregard parishes," Reese said.
Key initiative accomplishments Reese addressed during the panel presentation included the success of the Advanced Placement (AP) Program and the outcomes of Fort Polk Progress funding initiatives at local school districts serving military-connected students from Fort Polk.
As far the AP program, Reese said that Fort Polk Progress assisted both the Vernon Parish School Board and Beauregard Parish School Board in securing three-year grants from the National Math and Science Initiative and provided additional funding to cover AP course expenses not covered under the grant.
This resulted in an increase in AP course enrollment and qualifying exams scores of three or higher in both school districts.
VPSB went from having 68 students taking 113 AP exams with 50 qualifying scores in 2016, to 261 students taking 346 AP exams with 74 qualifying scores in 2018.
BPSB's DeRidder High School-the school covered under the NMSI grant due to high enrollment of military-connected students-had 21 students pass AP exams with qualifying scores, a 75 percent increase from 2017 in which 12 students passed.
VPSB and BPSB were also both able to add seven additional AP course offerings with the grant funding.
Reese also addressed the outcomes of funding initiatives by Fort Polk Progress-as part of Education Initiative efforts-- to VPSB and BPSB.
"The Fort Polk Progress board was pleased to be able to assist by providing several other small grants to address initiatives identified through the input of our military partners and school districts," Reese said.
Fort Polk Progress awarded VPSB with a $31,174 grant and BPSB with a $12,900 grant for the 2018-2019 school year.
VPSB used the grant to fund its website annual fee; AP program incentives for social studies AP courses not covered under the NMSI grant; Quick Response (QR) code cameras for students in kindergarten through second grade to access Clever-a student portal for a variety of learning applications-with a Clever QR code badge; and Camp Discovery-an annual summer Science, Technology, Engineering and Math camp for elementary school students.
BPSB grant funding was used for a class set of 30 Chromebooks and one interactive whiteboard to promote technology-driven education at parish schools.
"It is great to see our Fort Polk community held up as a model to other defense communities and military leaders," Reese said.