BCS program expands to state

Published 3:27 am Wednesday, October 23, 2019

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Last week, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) revised state policies to enhance the mentoring and support provided to teachers who enter the profession through an alternate certification route. Teachers who are certified in this way will now have expanded opportunities for co-teaching, collaborative planning, observation and feedback with a trained mentor.

“Every Louisiana teacher, regardless of how they attain their certification, deserves to feel fully prepared when they enter the classroom,” said State Superintendent John White. “The policy revisions adopted by BESE aim to end the practice of placing new teachers with minimum classroom-based preparation into full-time teaching roles and to provide these educators additional support and guidance as they navigate their entry to the profession.”

In Louisiana, teachers earn certification as an undergraduate or through a post-baccalaureate or “alternate” certification program. Undergraduate candidates participate in yearlong, classroom-based teaching residencies (will open in new tab) alongside an expert mentor teacher.

Alternate certification candidates typically complete their teacher preparation programs while serving as a full-time teacher. While previous BESE policy required 80 hours of pre-service practice and four observations during the year in which the candidate applies for certification, mentoring practices for alternate certification teachers have varied statewide. Alternate certification candidates have reported they did not have dedicated time to practice — or even to meet — with their mentors.

As a result, 20 percent of teachers prepared through alternate certification routes have left the profession after only two years, compared to 12 percent of teachers prepared through undergraduate routes.

In response to the increased attrition rates among alternate candidates and based on research that demonstrates a greater impact on student learning among teachers with high-quality mentors, the Louisiana Department of Education facilitated pilot programs in select rural school systems that resulted in cost-neutral models to provide expanded mentorship opportunities for these teachers. One of these pilot programs was in the Bogalusa City Schools.

Across all pilot programs, these teaching candidates had the chance to co-teach with a veteran educator for at least one class period per day, resulting in a 350-percent increase in the amount of mentoring they would typically receive.

“Our post-baccalaureate teachers participated in daily professional development as active learners,” said Charmaine Reeves, Title I School Wide Coordinator for BCS. “The co-teaching experience provided opportunities for them to observe and model best practices, learn and apply the concepts, and reflect with a supportive mentor. This ongoing cycle of collaborating, teaching, and learning provided the shelter needed to grow and retain our new teachers. We are thrilled to see this work expand statewide.”

The policy revisions adopted by BESE build on that foundation by replacing the pre-service practice requirement with an assurance from the employing school systems that alternate certification candidates receive mentoring that includes co-teaching, collaborative planning, observation and feedback sessions for a minimum of 15 percent of instructional time, or five hours per week, in the first year of teaching.