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Louisiana launches statewide educator recruitment and retention recommendations

Louisiana Educator Recruitment and Retention

Em Cooper | March 23, 2022

Guest author Em Cooper is Deputy Assistant Superintendent of Educator Development with the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) and a member of REL Southwest’s Teacher Preparation and Professional Development Research Partnership. After reading her blog, you may want to check out the LDOE podcast she hosts, Teacher Leader Lagniappe, which offers Louisiana educators “a little something extra” (lagniappe!) through discussions with leaders in Louisiana and across the U.S.

America needs teachers. Without the educator workforce, no other industry can function or succeed. While educators have always known this, the COVID-19 pandemic has shed a light on this for others. It also has heightened the importance of strong recruitment and retention strategies across states and school systems in order to hire and keep the best of the best for our children.

During the 2021 session of the Louisiana Legislature, a resolution was passed that created the Recruitment, Recovery, and Retention Task Force. The purpose of the task force is twofold: analyze educator workforce data and generate recommendations in both birth through grade 12 systems led by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) and higher education led by the Board of Regents.

This task force of education experts approved 28 recommendations (360 KB) PDF icon in November 2021 that will launch the first statewide recruitment and retention effort in Louisiana. All of these recommendations, implemented in tandem, will move the needle for Louisiana’s educator workforce. I’d like to highlight a few of the recommendations our educators will see over the next year.

Create a campaign to elevate the teaching profession

During the pandemic, we have seen social media highlight education in two ways: 1) families really appreciating their child’s teacher after experiencing virtual learning and 2) a negative narrative around teaching from within our own profession. Classrooms of future teachers shouldn’t hear that they shouldn’t go into education. This profession is the most important one in the world, and we have to change people’s perspective about this career path. Yes, compensation must change. Yes, working conditions must improve. Yes, strong, effective leadership should be in every system. Something we can instantly control right now is how we talk about what we do. The Recruitment, Recovery, and Retention Task Force’s intent with a campaign to elevate the profession was rooted in spreading the positivity, joy, influence, and change teachers make every day. This campaign will reach the entire state through various forms of media in hopes of inspiring the next generation of teachers or those looking for a career change.

Implement a statewide new teacher induction program

The first few years of teaching can be the most stressful for teachers as they learn the ins and outs of their school system, structures and protocols at their school, classroom management, how to build partnerships with families, and, of course, the content and pedagogy practices to ensure student success. Unfortunately, as in states across the country, Louisiana loses about half of its teachers in those first few years. This recommendation calls for new teachers to have a standard experience—one of support and mentorship—during their early years to strengthen effectiveness and retention. LDOE is partnering with school system leaders in developing a comprehensive program designed to provide direct supports to teachers and systems. If new teachers feel supported through a network of peers, an effective mentor, and trainings based on their needs, then teacher effectiveness and retention will increase.

Expand one of our grow-your-own models: the pre-educator pathway in high schools

In Louisiana, high school students complete one of two diplomas, career or college, and do so on a pathway of their choice. This school year, the pre-educator pathway is making its debut in about 20 school systems championed by exceptional high school teachers and system leaders. LDOE has allocated over $1,000,000 to implement this pathway, which aims to recruit and support students interested in pursuing a career in education. Students on the pre-educator pathway can earn industry-based credentials, enroll in dual enrollment courses, and complete field experiences and coursework aligned to teacher competencies. Our goal is to have the pre-educator pathway in every school system in the state, so that systems are investing in their high school students to truly grow their own educator workforce.

The success and learnings from this strategy are of utmost importance, which is why LDOE has partnered with REL Southwest to build a robust evaluation plan for the pre-educator pathway program. As a state with a strong focus on continuous improvement, we must answer these questions:

  • How are systems implementing the pathway in terms of courses offered, recruitment strategies, and enacted curriculum?
  • What successes and challenges have our school systems experienced?
  • How are LDOE resources being used to support successful implementation? What are the characteristics of students enrolling in the pathway and what are their completion rates?
  • What implementation models are associated with positive outcomes (including enrolling in postsecondary teacher preparation programs and becoming a teacher in their home system)?
  • What things should we start, stop, and continue doing to support school systems?
  • How has this program impacted the educator workforce?

The answers to these questions will allow us to make pivots in our strategy and supports, share best practices across school systems, and look at data over time to measure and ensure success.

It will be remarkable when, in a few years, these recommendations have moved from words on paper to improved outcomes for educators and students. Our educators can do this; our future is bright.

For more information on educator recruitment and retention:

From the Louisiana Department of Education:

From REL Southwest:

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Author Information

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Em Cooper

Deputy Assistant Superintendent of Educator Development

Louisiana Department of Education