State impressed with Richland lead teachers pilot program

Richland Parish is one of eight rural school systems highlighted in a report released today by the Louisiana Department of Education highlights pilot programs in eight rural school systems that allow these new teachers to “co-teach” with a veteran teacher for at least one class period per day. 

The  Richland Parish school system created seven “Lead Coach” positions and arranged for these expert teachers to spend two to three hours per day with their alternate certification mentees. During this time, they co-teach, observe, provide feedback, and collaboratively plan.

The pilots increase the amount of mentoring these teachers typically receive by 350 percent. 

“These pilot programs end the practice of placing new teachers with minimum classroom-based preparation into full-time teaching jobs,” said State Superintendent John White. “They also lay the groundwork for ongoing discussion about how similar programming could be implemented statewide.”

The Believe and Prepare Rural Residency Expansion Grant, originally begun at Rayville Junior High School to meet 2018-2019 staffing needs, has caught fire and spurred the innovation district-wide.

“The district’s vision for the TEACH Richland program involves leveraging Richland’s very own expert teachers as lead coaches and mentor teachers to continuously push the needle forward as we strive to ensure all students in Richland receive effective instruction every day,” Talent Pipeline Lead Rebecca Freeland said.

Richland Parish Superintendent of School Sheldon Jones agreed the program is benefiting both students and teachers in the parish.

“Attracting a viable workforce is one of the primary focuses of our personnel department in the Richland Parish School System,” Jones said. “Structured support for teacher residents and post baccalaureate candidates is important to retaining good teachers. Through our Teacher Incentive Fund Grant, Richland Parish has targeted the role expansion of teacher leaders, content leaders, and mentor leaders to improve the quality of instruction. Our focus on teacher effectiveness is yielding positive student outcomes in our classrooms.”

In Louisiana, new teachers either are trained in undergraduate colleges of education or in an alternate certification programs for college graduates.  Teaching candidates prepared through undergraduate programs participate in yearlong, classroom-based teaching residencies alongside an expert mentor teacher.

Alternate certification candidates complete their teacher preparation programs while working full-time as a teacher. They may have no experience before starting as full-time teachers, and while current policy requires them to have a school-based mentor, mentoring practices for alternate certification teachers vary statewide. In most cases, candidates do not have dedicated time to practice--or even to meet--with their mentors.

As a result, 20 percent of teachers prepared through alternate certification routes leave the profession after only two years, compared to 12 percent of teachers prepared through undergraduate routes.

Eight rural school systems are piloting innovative solutions to offer new teachers more preparation. They include the City of Bogalusa, Cameron Parish, Grant Parish, J.S. Clark Leadership Academy, Morehouse Parish, Pointe Coupee Parish, Richland Parish, and West Carroll Parish. 

While each pilot program is unique, on average, these pilots include structured practice and mentoring for one period per day, every day, during the entire school year. This means that candidates have multiple opportunities to meet and work with their mentor each week. These structured opportunities make the preparation experience substantially more supportive than current policy requires.

Moving forward, the Department will continue to examine the impact of each pilot, including the impact of increased mentoring.

“The pilot mentoring and co-teaching models in rural Louisiana are promising models of how to increase mentoring and improve preparation for aspiring teachers in alternate certification pathways,” said Holly Boffy, vice president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. “By continuing to track their progress, Louisiana will identify practices that could be scaled statewide through policy and tools.”

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