Sep 26, 2017

Yearlong, Mentor-Led Residencies Rare in State’s Most Remote Communities

BATON ROUGE, La.— Schools in only nine percent of Louisiana’s most sparsely populated parishes are given the chance to provide aspiring teachers with yearlong residencies under the tutelage of mentor educators, according to a report released today by the state Department of Education. The report, which includes survey results from teachers statewide, documents the lack of access teachers in rural communities often have to training programs that ready them fully for the classroom.

“Teachers in rural communities deserve the same options for a full preparation prior to assuming the responsibilities of full-time teaching,” said State Superintendent John White. “This will not be easy, but we owe an on-the-job training experience to these teachers, just as we owe it to their future students.”

Among key findings, the report states:

  • Rural school systems have limited access to undergraduate teacher candidates, including those who are prepared through yearlong residencies under the mentorship of veteran educators. Louisiana teacher preparation providers and their school system partners have piloted models of teacher preparation that incorporate a full year of practice under an expert mentor. In 2016-2017, however, only 9 percent of rural districts in the state hosted undergraduate teacher residents, compared to 39 percent in urban or suburban communities. This is due, in large part, to the fact that undergraduate institutions are not in close proximity to the most remote, rural communities, creating logistical challenges associated with establishing undergraduate residencies.
  • Teachers in economically disadvantaged rural communities are less likely to have completed preparation programs that fully prepare them for the specific classrooms in which they teach. In urban or suburban communities, 13 percent of classes are taught by uncertified or out-of-field teachers, while in less affluent, rural communities, 21 percent of classes are taught by uncertified or out-of-field teachers.
  • Teachers in less affluent rural communities are less likely to feel prepared to meet the demands of the classroom than their counterparts in urban or suburban school systems. To better understand how teachers experience these situations, the Department partnered with Louisiana State University’s Public Policy Research Lab to administer a survey to more than 1,300 Louisiana educators. Sixty-one percent of those respondents in economically disadvantaged rural communities indicated they did not feel prepared for the demands of the classroom in their first year of teaching, compared to 51 percent in urban or suburban systems. Participants in focus groups expressed similar sentiments.

To provide teachers in rural communities with a more complete program of preparation, the report concludes, Louisiana must find a way to bring the student teaching residencies to the rural communities in a way that is affordable to universities, school systems, and aspiring teachers.

“Establishing undergraduate residencies in rural communities that may be more than an hour’s drive from the nearest university poses significant challenges, both for the teacher candidate and for the university,” the report states. “This is why the majority of undergraduate residencies are based in urban and suburban school systems. There are strong models of post-baccalaureate residencies, however, that enable rural school systems to identify and build local teaching talent.”

One local example, it states, is Northwestern State University, where teacher preparation leaders recruit and prepare potential post-baccalaureate candidates in programs that include regular and intensive feedback from instructional coaches.

“Building high-quality post-baccalaureate residencies will require ingenuity and a fresh perspective on how such programs are structures and financed,” the report states, noting questions regarding this approach “deserve exploration.”

To that end, the Department will engage in a series of briefings with school leaders, school system leaders, and preparation providers to continue identifying supports for rural school systems that increase access to high-quality, residency-based preparation, particularly through post-baccalaureate teacher preparation pathways. Through discussion and study of exemplars, the Department will identify models to explore and potentially pilot.

“Aspiring teachers in all parts of the state deserve access to top-notch preparation, including yearlong residencies that provide first-hand classroom experiences,” said Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Joseph C. Rallo. “Expanding existing residencies in rural communities and establishing new ones will require collaboration and creativity, and will ultimately strengthen the profession leading to greater levels of success in classrooms statewide.”

To read the full report, click here.

To learn more about educator preparation in Louisiana, click here.

To access the Believe and Prepare Tools and Resources Library, click here.