Teacher Prepartion and Effectiveness: The Key to Student Success
A recent teacher preparation program analysis by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) ranked two Louisiana teacher preparation programs in the top 10 of 788 programs nationally: Northwestern State University’s elementary teacher program (ranked 4th), and Louisiana State University’s elementary teacher program (ranked 6th). The NCTQ also rated Louisiana as a “B” overall, in large part due to the strength of the teach preparation policy on identifying and retaining effective teachers.
In spite of these positive ratings and steady improvements in cohort graduation rates, ACT scores, Advanced Placement assessments and End-of-Course tests, Louisiana remains at the bottom nationally in student achievement results in reading and math. Clearly, challenges remain in effectively addressing all factors that impact student achievement, including the quality of classroom teaching.
Louisiana National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) Ranking
Among 50 States and District of Columbia
Subject National Ranking 2011 National Ranking 2013 National Ranking 2015
Grade 4 Reading 47th 47th 43rd
Grade 4 Math 49th 49th 45th
Grade 8 Reading 49th 48th 48th
Grade 8 Math 47th 48th 49th
Recent reforms implementing more rigorous K-12 standards and a unified system of early childhood education, along with increasing focus on STEM and college and career readiness, are bringing new and greater challenges to the state’s teacher preparation programs.
To better understand how teacher preparation is aligned with school and district needs, and to determine how preparation should change in the coming years, the Louisiana Department of Education surveyed new teachers, the programs that prepare them, and the schools and districts that hire them. In September 2014, the Louisiana Department of Education conducted the survey and focus groups with over 6,000 teachers, school leaders, and partner preparation programs. These were the key findings:
- School system leaders report challenges finding enough teachers to meet demand in all subjects and grade levels.
- Preparation program faculty report challenges finding enough classrooms for student teachers.
- New teachers do not consistently feel prepared for the realities of a classroom in their first year of teachers.
In response, school system and preparation partners joined the “Believe and Prepare” program, in which they are piloting new approaches to teacher preparation to ensure that aspiring teachers are equipped to teach all students. The state has awarded $4.89 million to three cohorts. Cohort 3, the largest of the cohorts, was recently announced with the Department awarding $2.85 million to 41 school systems and charter schools. The first cohort consisted of five school districts, two charter school organizations, and five preparation programs.
Policy Shift in Teacher Preparation Design, Licensure, and Accountability
In response to changes in student and teacher expectations, and to the results of new practices being piloted in the Believe and Prepare initiative, the Louisiana Department of Education has developed a new teacher preparation policy framework. Key elements of the proposed policy changes are:
- Updates to preparation program experience policies that ensure aspiring teachers are equipped for success in Louisiana classrooms, including competency-based program designs and a yearlong residency for all teacher candidates.
- Programs must be competency-based around candidates’ mastery of essential knowledge and skills versus discrete courses and isolated practice experiences.
- Preparation programs include, at minimum, a yearlong residency for all teacher candidates to provide ample opportunity for competencies to be mastered.
- Updates to teacher licensure policies that ensure licensure is based on demonstrated ability to teach all students.
- Required assessments measuring content knowledge needed for effective teaching in core subject areas such as English Language Arts and mathematics.
- Required assessment of pedagogy measures teaching skill through observations of teaching practice and measures of impact on student learning.
- Updates to preparation program approval policies that establish consistent, high standards for all providers’ program approval eligibility, including:
- On-site reviews of preparation programs that takes into account the quality of preparation experiences, licensure decisions, and district partnerships.
- A multi-measure accountability system to include on-site review ratings, production in high-need certification areas, graduates’ impact on student learning, and recruitment.
 Louisiana Believes.com.
 Louisiana Department of Education. “Believe & Prepared Louisiana’s Best Generation of Educators.”
 Louisiana Department of Education. “ Teacher Preparation Policy Framework.”