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Sunday, August 19, 2018
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Louisiana Public Square
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Panelist Bio


Debra Vaughan
The Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives

Debra Vaughan is the Assistant Director of Research for the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives. The Cowen Institute is a unique entity that takes Tulane University beyond the typical framework of higher education institutions that interact with K-12 public education systems through Schools of Education or Public Policy. Using a multidisciplinary approach, the Cowen Institute is pioneering a new model for the role of universities to play in public schooling systems. The Cowen Institute aspires to be the premier university-based entity where individuals and communities learn about best practices for programs, partnerships, and policies for transforming K-12 public school systems. The Cowen Institute is recognized locally and nationally as a resource for unbiased, meaningful reports depicting the impact of education reforms in New Orleans.

Debra Vaughan joined the Cowen Institute to lead the research team in 2010. The research team is tasked with chronicling, evaluating, and researching the transformation of public education in New Orleans. Prior to her position at the Cowen Institute, Debra spent eight years as the Director of Research and Evaluation at the Public Education Foundation (PEF), a local education fund with a history of success developing innovative programs that improve student achievement in public schools in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In addition to authoring and co-authoring several articles, Debra has presented her work to local and state-level stakeholders and at many national conferences, including the Public Education Network, the National College Access Network, and the American Educational Research Association. Prior to her career in education research, Debra was an economic analyst at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency and an economics professor at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.

Current Topic


     08/18 - The Power of Reading

How can we make inroads to improve adult literacy in Louisiana and champion a joy of reading from pre-school into adulthood?
The ability to read sets the foundation of who we are and what we can be. Through reading we expand our world, learn new things and increase our base of knowledge. In fact, a parent’s reading level is the greatest factor in a child’s academic success. Children who can’t read proficiently by the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

In Louisiana, 20 percent of adults are illiterate – five points higher than the national rate. How is Louisiana combatting its illiteracy problem across generational lines? How can we make inroads to improve adult literacy in Louisiana and champion a joy of reading from pre-school into adulthood?

Louisiana Public Square: The Power of Reading looks for answers and explores the value of lifelong reading through the lens of the PBS series The Great American Read Wednesday, August 22 at 7pm on LPB and in New Orleans on WLAE. (Recorded Tuesday, August 14 in the Magnolia Performing Arts Pavilion at Baton Rouge Community College.)

Our panelists are:
- Linda-Marie Barrett, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA)
- Rebecca Hamilton, MLIS; Louisiana State Librarian
- Danny Heitman; Journalist and Louisiana author
- Miranda Restovic, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH).
- Gary Robertson; Adult Literacy Advocates

The program features interviews with John Cavalier, owner of Cavalier House Books; Gary Robertson, Executive Director of Adult Literacy Advocates; representatives from the LEH PRIME TIME intergenerational reading program, and Superintendent John White with the Louisiana Department of Education.

LPB CEO Beth Courtney and Robyn Merrick, Southern University VP of External Affairs, host the show.

Louisiana Public Square can also be heard on public radio stations WRKF in Baton Rouge; Red River Radio in Shreveport and Monroe; and WWNO in New Orleans. Check their station websites for schedule.

This episode of Louisiana Public Square is underwritten by Community Coffee’s Cash for Schools Program, the Louisiana Forestry Association, LSU Press and the Southern Independent Booksellers’ Authors Round the South.

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Special Presentation


     05/16 - Louisiana Veterans Coming Home

What challenges do our returning veterans face?

Coming Soon!


     09/18 - Revisiting Reform

Are the criminal justice reforms working as intended?

Recent Topics


     07/18 - Preventing Suicide

How is Louisiana addressing its suicide problem?

     06/18 - Louisiana: Sportsman’s Paradise or Problem?  (ENCORE)

Is Louisiana a Sportsman’s Paradise or Problem?

     05/18 - News About the News

How can viewers distinguish between fact and fake news and is social media blurring the difference?

     04/18 - Balancing Eldercare

How much does Louisiana spend on nursing homes versus home and community-based care?
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