Teacher Preparation is Evolving
We know that teachers have a significant impact on the children they teach. Research has consistently shown that the most influential factor in a student's academic growth for any given school year is the teacher in the room. From prekindergarten through twelfth grade, each teacher's skills and expertise contributes to a student's educational outcomes. Each student's educational outcomes, positive and negative, will influence and impact the student's success in future school years and life.
From my personal experience as a math teacher, a school leader, and now as a district leader in Monroe City Schools, I have seen firsthand the effects of effective teaching on students' learning. I have also seen, unfortunately, what happens when all students do not have access to effective teachers because of critical teacher shortages and attrition. In a district in which 87% of students are economically disadvantaged, each year it has become a greater challenge to hire and retain certified teachers.
Recently, Louisiana's state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted teacher preparation policies that provide a yearlong residency for all aspiring teachers. These policies will take effect for all preservice teachers in the fall of 2018, but Monroe City Schools is not waiting until then to get involved.
Our district views teacher residencies as a powerful tool to address teacher shortages and prepare teachers to teach in our schools. This is why, in the summer of 2016, we committed to fund mentor teacher training and stipends for undergraduate resident teachers who are completing a yearlong residency in Monroe schools this school year.
Our superintendent Dr. Brent Vidrine has made this commitment based on the belief that school districts play a powerful role in preparing aspiring teachers and creating career pathways for our most effective teachers. As the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, I dedicate part of my time to oversee the residency program and collaborate with our partner institutions, Louisiana Tech University, the University of Louisiana at Monroe, and Grambling State University.
From our perspective, investing in a yearlong residency program provides Monroe City Schools with several advantages:
1) Teacher residents spend a year in our district, learning our school culture, expectations, and communities. Research shows that new teachers are likely to be hired in the school or district where they completed student teaching, which means that we are more likely to be able to hire these new teachers and keep them in the schools where they are most needed.
2) Our most effective teachers serve as mentors, ensuring that residents are learning the craft of teaching from our best teachers. Further, the mentor teacher position provides the opportunity to invest in the teaching profession while allowing them to continue to hone their teaching skills.
3) School and district leaders co-construct and collaboratively oversee the residency experience to ensure that teacher residents have mastered essential teaching knowledge and skills before they receive a professional teaching certificate.
It's just the first semester of our first year implementing residencies, but we are already seeing its impact on students and teachers. During a recent visit from US Secretary of Education Dr. John B. King, Jr., the mentor teachers who were initially reluctant to host residents shared that the experience is improving their teaching and providing more one-on-one and small group teaching time for their students. The residents also described the power of gaining a year's worth of practice alongside a mentor.
As a part of the larger workforce strategy in Monroe City Schools, the residency program has helped to develop a pathway into teaching in our schools and a pathway of leadership for our most effective teachers. We see the investment in residencies as vital to the long-term success of our schools and our students.
Supervisor of Curriculum
Monroe City Schools