BATON ROUGE, La. — By a one-vote margin, Louisiana’s state school board Tuesday sided with Superintendent of Education John White and pushed ahead with a statewide redesign of teacher training requirements, over the governor’s objections.
The preparation and certification changes, backed by members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in a 6-5 vote, will require aspiring teachers to get more intense training and mentoring, including a one-year apprenticeship.
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ three appointees to the board opposed expanding the current pilot program, aligning with education unions and traditional public school groups who worried schools won’t have enough money to pay for the redesign. They sought continued pilot programs and cost analysis.
“I think it’s going way too fast,” said Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators.
Supporters said the apprenticeship will better prepare teachers for the classroom and help retain teachers who, if unprepared, can get overwhelmed and leave the profession. White described a “crisis” in the sustainability and strength of Louisiana’s teaching corps.
“We shouldn’t be placing teachers in schools and wondering whether they are effective,” he said.
The one-year “residency” will be required for new teacher certification starting on July 1, 2018. Mentors will get additional pay, while the aspiring teacher in the residency could get a stipend. The Department of Education outlined federal grant financing that will be used to support the teacher training changes.
Many critics said the idea of a year-long apprenticeship is likely a good one and they support a focus on teacher preparation. But they said the changes hadn’t been studied enough.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to come here today on an initiative that I think everyone in the room agrees on,” said Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, asking the board to vote against the proposal.
His objection: “I don’t think anybody can identify a true-up cost.”
White said the department has been working with Louisiana’s colleges and school systems for the last three years on developing and testing the residency program. He said he’s presented a detailed breakdown of how the costs can be covered for three years.
The state’s top higher education policy board, the Board of Regents, backed the changes.
Jodi Romero, principal at Delcambre Elementary School, urged support for the changes.
“My first year as a teacher, I cried almost every day I was there because I really felt like I was not prepared,” she said. “This whole process would make them more successful.”
Board members spent three hours listening to testimony and debating the proposal.
“I don’t want to be frozen by the what-ifs. I know what the potential upside is to this,” said board member Gary Jones, from northeast Louisiana, who voted for the training revamp.
Jada Lewis, a board member from Baton Rouge, voted against the idea, saying school superintendents need to be onboard with the changes in order to make them work.
“If the buy-in is not there, the quality is not going to be there,” she said.
Voting for the teacher training changes were Holly Boffy, Tony Davis, Jim Garvey, Sandy Holloway, Kira Orange Jones and Gary Jones. Voting against were Kathy Edmonston, Thomas Roque, Lurie Thomason, Doris Voitier and Lewis.
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