Louisiana’s Commitment to Military Families in Education

In an admirable move to support military families and enhance the teaching profession, Louisiana is breaking down barriers that have long hindered military personnel and their spouses from becoming educators, as per this news release from the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE). LDOE has instituted a groundbreaking policy that streamlines the process for active military personnel and their spouses who hold teaching certificates from other states to obtain a Louisiana teaching certificate. This progressive initiative, sanctioned by House Bill 472 during the 2023 Regular Legislative Session, was met with unanimous approval from the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).

The heart of this new policy, as outlined in House Bill 472 of the 2023 Regular Legislative Session, grants a valid Louisiana teaching certificate lasting five years to military personnel and their spouses currently stationed in Louisiana, who already possess a teaching certificate from another state. However, to ensure that the highest educational standards are maintained, applicants must also meet all other prerequisites, such as background checks and criminal history reviews, as mandated by state law and board policy. “This is a practical approach to provide additional teachers for students across Louisiana,” remarked State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley. “With a strong military presence in our state, it’s an honor to help make lives a little easier for families serving our country.”

This recent development reflects Louisiana’s ongoing commitment to improving teacher recruitment and retention by expanding pathways to the profession. These proactive measures include:

Consistently raising teacher pay: Louisiana has been unwavering in its support for educators by consistently approving across-the-board pay increases for teachers and support staff. Notably, the state has allocated $25 million during the 2023 Regular Session to be directed towards differentiated compensation. This innovative approach allows school systems to allocate funds where they are needed most, including recruiting and retaining teachers in critical shortage areas, rewarding highly effective educators, supporting teachers in high-need schools, and recognizing teachers in leadership roles.

Supporting new ladders into the profession: Recognizing that there are various paths to becoming an educator, Louisiana has introduced policies that enable professionals from diverse backgrounds to embark on a teaching career. Whether individuals are pursuing the traditional route, an alternative path, or are eager to share their industry expertise in career and technical education courses, the state is facilitating their entry into the profession. One of the recent developments is the creation of the Associate Teacher Program, introduced in Act 99 of the 2023 Regular Legislative Session, which allows school systems to hire teachers with associate degrees who are enrolled in teacher education preparation programs, providing them with mentorship and ongoing professional development.

Expanding the pre-educator pathway in high schools: Louisiana recognizes the importance of nurturing an interest in education from a young age. To that end, over $1 million has been allocated to school systems to expand pre-educator pathways. These programs offer high school students the opportunity to take education courses, fostering their interest in the teaching profession. In the 2022-23 academic year, the pre-educator pathway was made available in more than 70 schools across 35 school systems.

Elevating teacher voice: To ensure that educators’ perspectives are at the forefront of educational decision-making,Dr. Brumley initiated the Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Council. Now in its second year, this council of educators convenes quarterly to provide valuable feedback on ongoing education initiatives and offer insights into how Louisiana can further enhance student outcomes and the teaching profession.

In addition to these impactful initiatives, the Louisiana Department of Education‘s latest policy represents a significant stride in supporting military families and bolstering the teaching workforce. It acknowledges the challenges military families face when relocating and endeavors to ease the transition by recognizing their qualifications and enabling them to continue their teaching careers in the state.

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Reading Instruction at University of Louisiana at Lafayette Recognized by NCTQ

Effective reading instruction is crucial for the development of elementary school students, so it’s all the more essential and impressive that The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s College of Education & Human Development has recently received recognition for its exceptional undergraduate elementary teacher preparation program, as per this news release from the school. In a national report by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), the program was awarded an impressive “A: grade. This non-profit education research and policy organization based in Washington, D.C., evaluated programs across the country to determine their effectiveness in equipping future teachers with the necessary knowledge and skills for teaching reading.

Dr. Toby Daspit, a professor in the College of Education & Human Development and the leader of the Department of Educational Curriculum and Instruction, emphasized the importance of scientifically based instruction methods in combating high illiteracy rates nationwide. These comprehensive approaches provided by the NCTQ offer a solid foundation for future elementary teachers to address the reading needs of their students effectively.

According to the NCTQ, more than one-third of fourth-grade students in the United States struggle to read at a basic level. By recognizing and accrediting programs that effectively teach reading instruction, the NCTQ aims to improve the quality of education and combat the literacy crisis. The acknowledgment received by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s College of Education & Human Development highlights the dedication of its faculty members and the innovative curriculum they have developed to meet current national and state needs.

The NCTQ analyzed various elements of the syllabi, lecture schedules, background reading materials, class assessments, assignments, and opportunities for practice in required literacy courses offered to undergraduate elementary teacher candidates. Their evaluation aimed to assess the programs’ effectiveness in teaching the five core components of scientifically-based reading instruction, as defined by the NCTQ:

  1. Phonemic awareness: The recognition of sounds made by spoken words.
  2. Phonics: Mapping those sounds onto letters and combinations of letters.
  3. Fluency: The ability to read with speed, accuracy, and proper expression.
  4. Vocabulary: Expanding students’ word knowledge.
  5. Comprehension: Enhancing students’ understanding of what they read.

The NCTQ is a nonpartisan organization founded in 2000 with the goal of ensuring every child has effective teachers and every teacher has the opportunity to be effective. With two decades of research and policy analysis, the NCTQfocuses on aligning teacher preparation to research-driven practices and strengthening policies and practices related to teacher quality. Their work encompasses areas such as recruitment, assignment, evaluation, development, and compensation. The organization is staffed by former teachers and funded by various foundations and philanthropic individuals, excluding federal funding.

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s College of Education & Human Development is dedicated to preparing future educators who are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and empathy necessary to make a positive impact on the lives of their students. The college offers a comprehensive range of programs and degrees, including undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs in various fields of education. Students have the opportunity to engage in practical experiences, internships, and research projects that enhance their understanding of educational theories and practices.

ULL’s College of Education & Human Development has achieved significant recognition for its undergraduate elementary teacher preparation program, particularly in the field of reading instruction. By aligning their curriculumwith research-driven practices and addressing the five core components of scientifically based reading instruction, the program equips future teachers with the necessary skills to promote strong literacy skills in elementary students. The NCTQ’s evaluation and acknowledgment reflect the university’s commitment to excellence in education and its dedication to producing highly skilled and effective teachers.

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Entergy Louisiana Donates to Nicholls Tour Tuesday Initiative

It was recently announced that Nicholls State University’s program that strives to bring underrepresented students to campus for collegiate tours, the Tour Tuesday initiative, recently received additional funding for its longevity, according to this news release from the school. Since its inception in 2016, Nicholls’s Tour Tuesday initiative has accounted for nearly 1,000 Bayou Region high school students to tour the campus. Luckily, thanks to a $10,000 donation from Entergy Louisiana, this exciting program can continue.

Renee Hicks is the Assistant Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness, Access, and Success at Nicholls State University, and she commented on Entergy’s contribution by saying “Entergy Louisiana has been a tremendous partner to Nicholls State University in identifying students in our region who may have thought college wasn’t an option for them. When we get students here and show them all Nicholls has to offer and explain the different financial avenues they can utilize to attain a college degree, their outlook changes to one of hope.”

The Tour Tuesday initiative allows Bayou Region high school students from underrepresented groups an opportunity to see what can be offered by higher education. In order to make the most of their program, Nicholls works with high school guidance counselors from the Bayou Region in order to identify the low-income or first-generation high school students who meet the admissions standards at Nicholls.

CEO of Entergy Louisiana Phillip May commented on investing in Nicholls’ Tour Tuesday program by saying, “a community’s quality of life is directly tied to educational and workforce opportunities, which is why it’s so important that we support initiatives like Nicholls’ Tour Tuesday program. Our youth are future leaders, innovators, and lawmakers, and this tour is another way we can provide tools and resources that can help them reach aspirations right here, at home, in Louisiana.”

This $10,000 donation wasn’t the only gift that Entergy Louisiana had given to Nicholls in 2023, as this news came just after it was announced that the company had donated $160,000 to the Nicholls State University Coastal Center.The donation was intended to support the Coastal Center Coast, Climate, and Culture Literacy Program, which is designed to bring organized presentations, publications, group tours, exhibits, and an additional web page to the program.

Nicholls’ Coastal Center, which is scheduled to begin construction in 2023, will be an institution that works directly with the Bayou Region Incubator in order to help small businesses and create jobs that are specific to the Bayou community and the Nicholls Farm to help test the real-world application of the center’s coastal research. Additionally, the Coastal Center will also serve as an educational resource that’s accessible to the public.

Entergy’s Phillip May commented on the company’s commitment to this program by saying, “this program is dedicated to preserving the Louisiana coastline. In partnership with Nicholls State University, Entergy is committed to enhancing coastal education and outreach initiatives that are impactful today and in the future. Coastal restoration and protection are not only important to us but directly benefit the communities we serve.”

Entergy Louisiana, LLC brings its service to approximately 1.1 million electric customers in 58 Louisiana parishes. In Baton Rouge, Entergy Louisiana is also able to provide natural gas service to approximately 96,000 customers. Additionally, Entergy companies employ approximately 4,5000 people in the state of Louisiana, and about 2,200 Entergy retirees reside within the state. Thanks to Entergy Louisiana’s two donations to Nicholls, future generations will be able to enjoy more of what the University’s campus and Louisiana’s coastline will have to offer.

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DOE Introduces Teacher Recruitment & Retention Fellowship

Earlier this month, the Louisiana Department of Education selected school system leaders from across the state to assist in an effort to create a program foe teacher recruitment and retention for the educators in Louisiana’s most vital certification areas, as reported by an LABelieves’ press release.

The State’s Department of Education selected “human capital leaders” from sixteen Louisiana school systems to participate in the fellowship, which will be operating through the national organization, Urban Schools Human Capital Academy. This organization is a non-profit aimed at supporting and bringing together leaders in schools and districts to drive a measurable improvement in teacher and principal quality. The USHCA operates in sixteen states, and has experience in providing new and existing school and district leaders to grow their management skills and become leaders, or human capital leaders.

This particular fellowship will consist of two national workshops and monthly state sessions for this particular Louisiana cohort, which will begin in late October, concluding in Spring 2021. The Louisiana Department of Educationhopes that this effort will bring highly-effective educators and leaders from across the state in order to ensure that every student learns from a high-quality teacher without interruption in personnel.

In the release, State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Cade Brumley stated, “An effective teacher has the power to transform the lives of countless children, which is why we must do everything we can to attract and keep the very best in Louisiana. This fellowship will expose system leadership to what’s working for districts around the nation, while also sparking collaboration that will lead to innovations in our state.”

The sixteen Louisiana school Systems participating in the fellowship program are:

Avoyelles Parish

Caddo Parish

Catahoula Parish

City of Baker School System

Grant Parish

Iberville Parish

Livingston Parish

Morehouse Parish

Ouachita Parish

Pointe Coupee Parish

Rapides Parish

St. Charles Parish

St. Landry Parish

St. Tammany Parish

Tangipahoa Parish

West Baton Rouge Parish

In addition to the monthly Louisiana cohort meetings, the two national workshop portions of the fellowship give state educators the opportunity to collaborate not only with other educators, wherein great strategies, ideas, and materials are shared, but they will also be networking with other human capital professionals from across the U.S, learning the best, tested practices for attracting and keeping effective teachers. While this year the national workshops will be delivered virtually, the national arm of the fellowship plans to focus on how exactly school systems can adjust their recruitment and retention strategic plans during the pandemic.

At their planned monthly meetings, the Louisiana cohort will map out what Louisiana-specific challenges in relation to teacher recruitment and retention are unique to the state, allowing leaders to explore innovative solutions and how best to implement them. Already, the Louisiana human capital leaders have requested the following strategies they would be eager to explore:

  • Building teacher communities across parish lines in order to support educator development and retention.
  • Implementing a structure to share teachers across parish lines, especially in the vital subject areas, such as Advanced Math and Science.
  • Introducing a common interview process for teachers across parish lines.

In Dr. Brumley’s 100 Day Report, the need for an enhanced teacher recruitment and retention program in Louisiana was outlined, and it’s much-needed due to the fact that over have of the Louisiana teachers leaving the profession do so within their first ten years in the classroom. Subjects outlined as having the largest-need areas for teachers are math and science, yet only 8 percent of all program completers earned their teaching certification in math and only 7 percent earned it in science. Needless to say, this fellowship is a refreshing take on a vital challenge facing Louisiana school systems.

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Tulane University Reaches Record Early Decision Applications

Tulane University has become the preferred university for a rising number of the United State’s top students. Since the program was launched in 2016, Early Decision admissions applications have risen 35% of the last year and have doubled since the program launch according to undergraduate admissions data.

Tulane President Mike Fitts said. “Tulane’s growing academic reputation, its innovative, interdisciplinary curriculum, its world-class faculty, its unique academic structure and its location in one of the nation’s most culturally rich cities are some of the many reasons that Tulane is becoming the first-choice, dream school for so many students. We’re also ‘right-sized.’ We’re large enough to support a major research mission, yet small enough to foster one-on-one mentor relationships between students and faculty.”

Tulane’s vice president of enrollment management and dean of undergraduate admission, Satyajit Dattagupta, projects that in 2024, about half the class of the first-year students this fall, will be Early Decision applicants. If a student is accepted as an Early Decision applicant, they agree to enroll in the school they were accepted, which means turning down any offers from other universities.

“Tulane is a brand that is recognized nationally and worldwide. It’s one of the best investments students can make, because the return is exponentially higher than the investment.” said Satyajit Dattagupta.

He also stated that today’s students require a higher level of standard from their preferred colleges and universities. Students who excelled in school have more options for their higher education, and want to be sure that universities live up to their projected standard. Of the accepted Early Decision applicants, about 10% will be international students, which demonstrates another area of growth for the university.

“It’s not surprising, but very reassuring to see that students consider Tulane as their first preference,” he added.

Overall, Tulane has seen a rise in undergraduate applications, with more than 43,000 applications for the incoming fall semester. This is up from 41,365 from last year. Dattagupta projects that the number of students accepted into Tulane compared to the number of who applied to the university will be around 12 percent.

Last year, Tulane was ranked in number 40 in the country’s top national universities in the most recent edition of the U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges rankings, which was released in September of 2019. U.S. News and World Report also ranked the university’s undergraduate business program 43rd in the nation, and ranked Tulane in 3rd place in Service Learning, number 18 for best college for veterans, and number 42 for most innovative schools.

“There’s no ‘perfect’ university, but there are certain institutions that can be a ‘perfect’ fit for some students. The transformational journey that Tulane provides is unparalleled: academic flexibility, excellence [and] access — combined with our commitment to community service, in the most interesting city in the whole world — I think that message has resonated with our students.”” Dattagupta added.

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Promising Outcome for Schools in the ESSA Plan

On November 6, 2019, the Louisiana Department of Education revealed performance data that detailed how well schools and child care centers across the state prepare their students, from birth to 12th grade. You can find the results online at the Louisiana School and Center Finder.  The public school scores that were announced signify a milestone in the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA Plan), which is a required effort to identify and improve struggling public schools. The results of the scores show promising outcomes for many of these struggling schools that were identified. According to this article from Louisiana Believes:

  • Struggling schools undergoing improvement efforts grew by an average of 4.8 SPS points, compared with 3.9 SPS points among other improving schools.
  • Of the 219 struggling schools identified by the state, excluding alternative schools, 43 schools–20 percent–improved a full letter grade, compared with 15 percent among all other public schools, excluding those already scoring at the “A” level.
  • Of 219 schools initially identified under the ESSA Plan as in need of comprehensive improvement, excluding alternative schools, 36 percent increased by 3 or more school performance score (SPS) points, 40 percent remained generally steady, and 24 percent declined by 3 or more SPS points. By comparison, 29 percent of other schools, excluding alternative schools, increased by 3 or more points.

These results are also a great indicator for the need of bigger improvement in struggling schools. Since the ESSA Plan requires Louisiana to identify struggling public schools, 571 newly identified schools have been added to this list of schools that have consistently struggling groups of students. These schools, which make up 44 percent of all of Louisiana’s public schools, are now required to develop plans for improvement pending state approval and funding. Out of those 571 schools, 89 have received a grade of “F” for two or more consecutive years and 25 have received an “F” for four or more consecutive years, reinforcing their eligibility for inclusion in the state-run Recovery School District.

“Today’s release provides early indications that school systems taking seriously their responsibility to provide a quality education for all children can make significant improvements, even in persistently struggling schools. The release also underscores the urgency of taking action. More than 45,000 students still attend a school rated ‘F.’ This can and must change.” said state superintendent John White.

This release is also effective in providing information for parents and communities with information on early childhood centers, which have been consistently showing improvement. Compared to the past year, 126 more early childhood sites achieved Proficient or above in the 2018-2019 school year. These results also indicate the necessity for expanding access to these high-quality programs, especially for children birth to age three. While 86 percent of economically disadvantaged 4 year olds have access to quality early learning, only 1 percent of our infants, 6 percent of our toddlers, and 26 percent of our 3 year olds do.

Based on the results, 271 schools have been recognized as in need of comprehensive intervention for the next school year and are required to submit their plans for school improvement. The other 300 schools are required to submit a plan for urgent intervention in regards to struggling persistently with groups of students and/or school discipline.

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