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How Louisiana supports new teachers with hands-on residencies

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By Cora Goldston | September 11, 2018

Imagine it’s your first day as a classroom teacher. You’ve completed a teacher preparation program and met all the course requirements. Your student teaching experience gave you helpful insight into classroom instruction, but it lasted only a limited time. Now, standing in the classroom on your first day, new questions come to mind. How do you establish rapport with your students? What’s the right balance between authority and approachability? How do you reach a student who is struggling or disengaged?

A teacher residency is one strategy for providing teachers with more in-depth experience in all aspects of classroom instruction. Teacher residencies allow preservice teachers to practice for a year under the guidance of an experienced mentor teacher. Louisiana’s Believe and Prepare program partners with the state’s teacher preparation programs and school districts to provide teacher residencies statewide.

Sara DeLano is the executive director of Education Workforce for the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE). She is also a member of the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southwest Teacher Preparation and Professional Development (SWTPPD) Research Partnership. The SWTPPD partnership is bringing researchers and LDOE staff together to explore the outcomes of teacher participation in Believe and Prepare residencies.

DeLano explains that Louisiana provides a great opportunity for trying out a teacher residency program. “Each year, approximately 2,300 new teachers complete their teacher preparation programs in Louisiana, and most of them go on to work in our state,” she notes. All 27 of the state’s teacher preparation programs participate in the residency program.

LDOE’s Believe and Prepare Program

LDOE developed the Believe and Prepare residency program based on feedback from teachers, school districts, and teacher preparation programs. DeLano described the uncertainty that new teachers face, saying, “We surveyed new teachers about their experiences. Almost half of new teachers felt they weren’t prepared to be teachers of record on their first day.” LDOE also heard from school districts that new teachers might not be prepared for all aspects of teaching in Louisiana. At the same time, teacher preparation programs expressed an interest in working more closely with school districts.

To better equip and support new teachers, LDOE provided funding to pilot teacher residencies beginning in 2014. The Believe and Prepare initiative codifies best practices that were identified during these pilots:

  • Providing all undergraduate teacher candidates with a year-long residency under the mentorship of an experienced teacher
  • Moving to a competency-based model for teacher preparation programs

Under the competency-based model, rather than requiring preservice teachers simply to complete a sequence of courses, they must demonstrate mastery of certain educator competencies. DeLano explains the shift: “LDOE had very specific course-hour requirements for teacher prep programs, which could be quite restrictive. The competency-based approach allows teacher prep providers to design their programs as they see fit. At the end of the day, the programs are responsible for ensuring that preservice teachers master the state’s educator competencies, but programs have flexibility in how they accomplish that goal.”

DeLano notes that LDOE also is exploring ways to expand the Believe and Prepare program to support the experienced teachers who mentor participants. “We’re thinking about this as a career ladder, where teachers can work up to being mentors. We’re rolling out statewide training as well, so that Believe and Prepare mentors receive intensive training about how to coach preservice teachers and provide meaningful feedback.”

Collaboration between LDOE and REL Southwest

LDOE is excited about partnering with REL Southwest to learn about the outcomes of the Believe and Prepare program. “In particular,” notes DeLano, “we’re interested to learn about the differences in teacher effectiveness and retention between those who complete a teacher residency and their peers.”

LDOE brings unique data resources to this collaboration. The state can share teacher effectiveness data with school systems to improve professional development offerings. In addition, LDOE has a reciprocal data exchange with teacher preparation programs. If an individual teacher gives permission, LDOE may share teacher-level data about the teacher’s effectiveness with the relevant preparation program. This feedback allows programs to see where their teacher candidates have opportunities for growth and to adjust their preparation programs accordingly.

“We all know how important it is for students to have great educators,” says DeLano. “Teachers are the number one success factor. If we have the right policies and supports in place, we can really support the effectiveness of teachers.”

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Author Information

Elise Kail

Cora Goldston

Communications Associate | REL Southwest