Louisiana’s Innovative Step Towards Teacher Well Being

In a significant move to enhance the teaching environment and teacher well-being in Louisiana, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley has declared the formation of a groundbreaking initiative, the Let Teachers Teach Workgroup. As per this news release from LDOE, this workgroup aims to delve deeper into the issues plaguing teachers in their daily responsibilities and impeding their primary focus on student instruction. Dr. Brumley, recognizing the pivotal role teachers play in student success, expressed the critical need to protect teachers’ time for their essential work.

Acknowledging the diverse challenges faced by educators, the workgroup will be comprised of PK-12 teachers from various regions in the state. The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) is collaborating with teacher committees and educational organizations in the state to identify suitable candidates for this workgroup. Interested organizations are encouraged to submit their recommendations via email to ldoecommunications@la.gov. Chairing this pivotal workgroup will be Kylie Altier, the current Louisiana Teacher of the Year.

Altier, speaking passionately about her dedication to teaching, remarked, “I wholeheartedly believe teaching is the best job in the world because of the children, and I can think of no greater work than ensuring teachers can keep their full focus on students.” This sentiment reflects the deep commitment of educators like Altier to prioritize student learning above all else.

The impetus behind forming the Let Teachers Teach Workgroup stems from feedback received by the LDOE through various channels. This includes formal avenues like the Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Council and informal means such as Dr. Brumley’s firsthand experiences during classroom visits and faculty meetings. These interactions shed light on several challenges hindering effective teaching, including excessive training and paperwork, the constraint of following scripted lessons, and difficulties related to student behavior and discipline.

Dr. Brumley envisions the workgroup as a collaborative effort to address these concerns and pave the way for a more conducive teaching environment. The diverse composition of the workgroup, with representation from teachers across grade levels, is poised to provide comprehensive insights into the multifaceted challenges faced by educators.

As the workgroup gears up to commence its activities in the spring, the educational community anticipates positive outcomes and tangible solutions to the issues that have long hindered teachers’ ability to focus on their core mission—teaching. This initiative aligns with a broader movement within education to prioritize teacher well-being and ensure that they can perform their roles without unnecessary impediments.

The Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Council serves as a formal platform for teachers to provide input and feedback directly to the educational leadership. This council fosters communication between educators and decision-makers, ensuring that the voices of those on the front lines of education are heard and considered. The Let Teachers Teach Workgroup exemplifies the collaborative approach needed to tackle challenges in education. By bringing together teachers from various backgrounds and grade levels, the workgroup aims to provide a holistic perspective on the obstacles hindering effective teaching.

Enhancing teacher conditions isn’t just a matter of comfort; it’s an investment in the foundation of our educational system. When teachers are provided with an environment conducive to focused instruction, the benefits cascade throughout the entire learning ecosystem. Improved teacher well-being directly translates to increased student engagement, enhanced academic outcomes, and a more positive school culture. Moreover, prioritizing teachers fosters retention and attracts quality educators to the profession. By addressing the challenges highlighted by the Let Teachers Teach Workgroup, Louisiana is poised to fortify its education system, ensuring a brighter future for both educators and students alike.

In conclusion, the Let Teachers Teach Workgroup in Louisiana symbolizes a significant stride towards prioritizing teacher well-being and optimizing classroom conditions. This collaborative effort promises a positive shift in education, benefitting both teachers and students alike.

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Teacher Pay Increased by BESE’s New Funding Formula

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) recently unanimously adopted a new statewide K-12 education funding formula for the 2023-24 school year, as per this news release from the Louisiana Department of Education. This new Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) formula not only aligns with the recommendations made by the Louisiana Department of Education, but it also addresses the key areas of teacher pay, support staff pay, workplace development, and operational costs.

The new formula includes across-the-board salary increases of $2,000 for certified teachers and $1000 for non-certified support staff. Additionally, BESE had approved the addition of a differentiated compensation provision for teacher salaries, established in the MFP formula in the form of a $61 million block grant program.

Under this new provision, school systems would receive money to fund stipends for teachers who are working in critical shortage areas, as defined by BESE. Additionally, stipends can be funded for highly-effective teachers, as defined in state law and BESE policy, teachers working in schools with an economically disadvantaged student population rate of 85% or higher, and teacher leaders working to support their peers.

State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley commented on the new formula adoption by saying, “I’m pleased to see our MFP proposal move forward with a market-responsive approach for the first time in Louisiana’s history. This will be a statewide game-changer for directly targeting pay toward staffing needs and teacher quality. Business and industry partners frequently shoulder the need for employees trained in career and technical education. Dedicating funding to our school systems specifically to support apprenticeships will encourage this career readiness approach to be lifted across Louisiana.”

Also, BESE added a projected $21.5 million to the MFP to help school systems meet their ever-increasing operational costs. The Board increased the formula’s Mandated Costs Allocation from $100 to $133 per student in order to support health insurance, retirement, transportation, and other operational costs that are incurred by school systems. This reflects the rate of inflation from 2009 when this operational component was last increased.

Additionally, the new MFP formula includes a projected $1.5 million increase to the formula’s Supplemental Course Allocation, dedicated to state-approved apprenticeship programs. These funds would be distributed to school systems based on the number of eligible students and with an enrollment limit of 250 applicants annually across both semesters. Systems that are designated as rural by the United States Census Bureau would also receive $3,500 per enrolled student, and non-rural systems would receive $2,500 per enrolled student.

BESE President Dr. Holly Boffy said, “the formula approved by the Board today supports key priorities for K-12 education in Louisiana. As the first step in the state’s education funding process, BESE’s passage of the MFP formula provides $257 million in teacher pay raises for teachers, including $2,000 for all teachers and another $60 million to meet our greatest staffing challenges in the classroom. The new MFP also increases aid for schools and districts struggling to cover rising expenses, and supports career and technical education through dedicated funding. We look forward to working with our partners in the legislature throughout the budgeting process to ensure that our students and educators receive the financial support they deserve.”

The MFP formula is set to determine the cost of teaching every K-12 public school student in Louisiana. According to the state’s constitution, BESE must create a formula for allocating state funding to public schools and submit it annually to the Louisiana Legislature. The final resolution describing the BESE-approved formula is set to be delivered to the Louisiana Legislature for review. According to state law, the Legislature may accept or reject the BESE-submitted formula but cannot alter it. BESE also asked the legislature to send the formula back to the Board so that a 2.75% increase to the formula’s base per-pupil amount and additional money for dual enrollment programs may be added should the Revenue Estimating Conference recognize additional funds throughout the budget approval process.

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Louisiana Teacher Retention on the Rise According to Louisiana Educator Workforce Report

It was recently revealed by the 2021-2022 Educator Workforce Snapshot that more teachers in Louisiana are choosing to remain in the education profession and that the percentage of certified educators is trending upwards, according to this news release from the Louisiana Department of Education.  Teacher retention has been a topic of conversation for quite some time so this report is promising for the state’s education system.

The LDOE recently released the 2021-2022 Educator Workforce Snapshot, which is a statistical snapshot that provides an overview of “workforce data” for Louisiana’s 1394 traditional public schools. The snapshot was obtained using data from the End-of-Year (EOY) data from the recently concluded 2021-2022 school year. LDOE describes the purpose of the data “is to communicate annual workforce data and trends to stakeholders and to support decision making for statewide improvements regarding recruitment and retention.”

The Educator Workforce Snapshot provided a wide array of updates and data on both teachers and students in the 2021-2022 school year, but the following were pointed out as being the main highlights of the report: Louisiana’s overall teacher retention, certified teacher percentage, and diversity of teacher workforce had increases two points a piece. Overall teacher retention is now at 86%, whereas first-year teacher retention has increased five points to 83%. The percentage of Louisiana teachers who are certified had increased to 69% of all teachers, and the diversity rate of the state’s teacher workforce has increased to 29%.

With this upward trend in teacher retention across the state for both new and veteran teachers, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley commented by saying, “this is an enlightening report that shows Louisiana’s comprehensive recruitment and retention plan is working. Even with this early progress, we must remain laser-focused. Every educator deserves quality pay, strong leadership, and to be valued as professionals. This encouraging data is early proof of what can happen when you listen to teachers and create an environment where their voice matters.”

Additionally, the 2021-2022 Educator Workforce Snapshot also revealed that the average teacher salary in Louisiana has increased by $1,268 to $52,174. Along with compensation information for teachers, assistant principals, and principals, the Snapshot also had demographic information pertaining to ethnicity and gender listed for teachers as well as students. The certification date for teachers was further classified by whether or not the certified or uncertified teachers were teaching in a subject with a high-stakes state assessment, in a school evaluated with a high or low letter grade, and by subject area.

Louisiana has put a lot of effort towards its comprehensive recruitment and retention in recent history. Firstly, the past year saw a pay increase for teachers and support staff, as teachers saw a $1,500 pay increase approved and support staff saw a $750 increase in salary. Additionally, veteran teachers applying to be a Mentor Teacher for the school year were given a $2000 stipend for their additional responsibility.

Other actions taken to increase teacher recruitment and retention were that LDOE had recently collaborated on new legislation that allows for professionals with a master’s degree in any field to be able to enter the classroom as a teacher. Also, the 2022 Regular Legislative Session established the Geaux Teach Fund, which allocated $5 million for the purpose of awarding scholarships to high school students who are a part of a teacher preparation program.

Also, LDOE created the first Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Council, which saw 22 educators chosen from nearly 900 applications to serve on the inaugural council. The council will consist of a cohort of educators who will meet with Dr. Brumley once a quarter to share their feedback on current education initiatives and to offer insight on how Louisiana can help to improve student outcomes.

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Louisiana Teachers Attend Virtual Leaders Summit

According to a release by the Louisiana Department of Education, thousands of teachers who are leaders in their schools, districts, and communities gathered virtually over an eight day period at the start of summer to attend, present, and collaborate at the Eighth Annual Louisiana Teacher Leaders Summit.

On May 28th, the event officially kicked off with an address from the state’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, Chris Dier. Dier is a history teacher at St. Bernard Parish’s Chalmette High School, and he was also one of four finalists for national Teacher of the Year. Virtual participants all over Louisiana were encouraged by Dier’s inspiring message that reaffirmed how critical the teacher’s role has been in the lives of their students. “When schools close their doors, teachers open their hearts,” stated Dier in his opening day address.

Throughout the eight day period, the over 6,000 virtual participants attended valuable professional development sessions tailored to the unique role each teacher leader plays back in their respective school district. The sessions provide participants and presenters with high quality resources that can be scaled and adopted to fit a variety of diversified school systems across the state.

Teachers who attended the summit were encouraged to collaborate with colleagues from across the state to share best practices, cognitive strategies, classroom management techniques, and so much more. The individual learning sessions ensured teacher collaboration by limiting the size of their audiences, thus ensuring interactivity among leaders.

Highlighting the vital importance of the 2020 Teacher Leader Summit was the Louisiana’s Acting State Superintendent Beth Scioneaux, who said “this year’s event focuses on how schools can ensure meaningful growth for every child, every day. This theme is critical now more than ever, as school systems adapt their academic and operational plans to ensure high quality learning and to adhere to the latest health and safety guidelines.”

During the event, the Department of Education’s information hub, Louisiana Believes, posted a vast library of the most popular recorded broadcasts from the week, collaboration kits, and curriculum materials free to any interested teacher, regardless of registration. This open catalog of resources encouraged teachers to take what they wanted from the Summit to best fit the individualized needs of their students.

One week following the commencement of the full event, all recorded sessions, along with teaching materials will be posted to the Department’s Teacher Leader Library.

This year marks the Eighth Annual Teacher Leader Summit, which was originally founded by a group of Louisiana teachers who believed that classroom educators deserved a louder voice in state-wide academic decision-making. So, in April 2013, 2,000 educators attended the first statewide summit of Louisiana Teacher Leaders. Today, that participation has tripled through a blend of in-person and online trainings, which are held year-round, to fit the bust schedules of authentic classroom teachers. Professional developments offered at the summit cover a variety of topics related to English Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Science, Early Childhood, and Special Education.

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Two Louisiana Educators Receive National Honors

According to Louisiana Believes, Steven Gamache and Jennifer Williams, two Louisiana educators, received the 2019-2020 prestigious, nationally recognized Milken Educator Award as well as the accompanying unrestricted check for $25,000. The two language arts teachers are among 40 educators nationwide to receive this year’s award.

Steven Gamache is an eighth grade language arts teacher at Paul Habans Charter School in Orleans Parish. He obtains a bachelors in English from Fordham University and a master’s in adolescent education from the College of Saint Rose. Aside from being the school’s lead ELA teacher, Gamache is also the coach to sixth and seventh grade ELA interventionists.

Jennifer Williams, a sixth grade language arts teacher at John Q. Adams School in Jefferson Parish, received her bachelor’s in elementary education from the University of New Orleans. She’s also the organizer of her school’s “Test Fest”, one of the schools biggest events.

Both Gamache and Williams were prepared for an assembly, celebrating their schools’ wonderful academic gains, when they were given the surprise of a lifetime as the Milken Educator Awards Founder, Lowell Milken, announced the true reason they were there.

“There are very, very few human beings walking the planet with the commitment, intelligence, sense of humor, thoughtfulness and integrity that Steve possesses. He’s the newest member of a very elite group and he deserves every accolade he received – and will receive – today and going forward.” said Tracy Blowers about teacher Steven Gamache in response to receiving the Milken Educator Award.

Watch the video for Steven Gamache receiving his award here.

Alena Alexeeva says about Williams, “Mrs.Williams is one of the best teachers. She is always thinking about the class and teaches her students well. She helps students understand a new topic easily and motivates her students to never give up. She also has very good methods in her class that make learning easy and fun.”

Watch the video for Jennifer Williams receiving her award here.

Winners of the Milken Educator Award are selected in their early to mid-career, with consideration of what they have already achieved, as well as the promise of what they will accomplish in their career. Aside from the $25,000 prize and public recognition, the award also includes being inducted into the Milken Educator Network, a community of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals, and specialists who have also received the honor of the award.

Winners of the 2019-2020 Milken Educator Award will also attend a Milken Educator Forum in Indianapolis, Indiana on March 26-28, 2020, where they will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and peers and elaborate and exchange ideas with both state and federal on the future of education.

The Award’s “Why Not Us” program will pair each 2019 recipient to a Milken Educator veteran mentor so they can explore, collaborate, and prepare new ideas for expanded leadership roles that better and solidify education practice and policy.

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Louisiana Teachers Gather for Annual Summit

The Louisiana Department of Education held the 7th Teacher Leader Summit on Wednesday, June 26th through Friday, June 28th, 2019. More than 6,500 Louisiana teachers and educators, representing almost every school system in the state, gathered at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. This annual Summit was created in response to teachers who thought classroom educators should have a larger voice in statewide academic decisions.At the first statewide summit in April 2013, there were 2,000 teachers in attendance. Since then, the number of participating teachers has tripled with an approximated 6,500 teachers in attendance this year. They have since branched out to a blend of year-round-in-person and online trainings to expand the opportunities available to Teacher Leaders.

From Wednesday through Friday, these over 6,000educators spent their time at the Summit attending and conducting professional development training workshops, collaborating with one another as peers, and learning how they can best play active roles in shaping the future of up-and-coming Louisiana minds and the future of education in Louisiana. The collection of training and workshop topics vary from early childhood development and education to school improvement and Louisiana’s innovative assessment pilot, which was enacted to study how the state tackles issues of school accountability, student assessment, data transparency, and school improvement. In addition to these workshops led by Teacher Leaders, the Summit will host “Ed Talks,” which is a speaker series that featured the six national education leaders.

The 7th Teacher Leader Summit ushered in preparations for the 2019-2020 school year and those to follow. The summit overview listed its objectives as follows:

“This year’s event will equip educators in every level of the system with tools and training that provide all students the opportunity to:

  • Build knowledge of the world
  • Read meaningful texts
  • Express ideas through writing and speaking
  • Solve complex math problems
  • Attend a school that treats them with dignity and respect”

The State Superintendent John White stated, “Louisiana has a longstanding commitment to raising the bar, and as a result, more students than ever before are graduating in four years, earning college and career credentials, achieving eligibility for TOPS scholarships, and pursuing post-secondary education and training.” State Superintendent White continued, “During the 7th annual Teacher Leader Summit, we will celebrate those hard-earned gains, but more importantly, we will focus on how our collaborative efforts can make those opportunities accessible to all students, including our most vulnerable.”

Students from The Performing Arts Academy of St. Bernard Parish performed in the convention center’s theater for the inauguration of the event. Superintendent White addressed the current state of education in Louisiana and outlined the academic strategy moving forward into the future. The 2018 Louisiana Teacher of the Year and recipient of the inaugural Louisiana Public Interest Fellowship, Kimberly Eckert, announced the winner of the Fellowship for the 2019-2020 school year. Lastly, South Lafourche High School was honored with the title of 2019 Louisiana Teacher Leader Summit Premier School.

Watch a stream of the opening ceremony here.

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