NSU, Natchitoches Parish will get BESE grant for teacher residencies


Northwestern State University and Natchitoches Parish Schools will receive grant dollars from the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to advance the state-wide shift to full-year residencies for all aspiring teachers.

Although final numbers are not available, NSU requested $85,000 of the $1 million allocated to universities and Natchitoches Parish Schools should receive $10,000 of the over $500,000 allocated to school districts, said Dr. Kimberly McAlister, head of NSU’s Department of Teaching, Leadership and Counseling.

“NSU is completing its third pilot of having undergraduate early childhood and elementary education teacher candidates teach for an entire year in a single placement,” McAlister said. “Currently, we have teacher candidates completing a full year of residency at Weaver Elementary and Fairview Elementary. We are working to transition all undergraduate teacher education programs (secondary and K-12 programs) to this full year of residency.

Like many states across the nation, Louisiana’s schools have experienced staffing shortages and difficulty retaining excellent teachers. Last October, BESE adopted regulations to address these challenges, providing teacher candidates with a full-year classroom residency alongside an experienced mentor teacher, coupled with a competency-based curriculum that will provide them with the knowledge and skills needed for their first day of teaching. Teacher candidates admitted into programs in the 2018-19 year will be the first cohort to experience the required year-long residency and new competency-based models.

“The residency program is a key component to ensuring that new teachers enter the classroom ready on day one,” said BESE Vice President Dr. Holly Boffy. “This is an important initiative to further strengthen teaching in Louisiana. Great teachers pave the way for our students to excel academically and achieve their goals.”

The funding package, which draws from existing state and federal funds, is based on an approved funding formula that includes grant allocations for Louisiana universities with approved undergraduate teacher preparation programs, as well as 18 partnering school systems.

More than $1 million was awarded to universities to support staff costs related to the transition of preparation programs, and nearly $600,000 was awarded to school systems to provide 233 teacher candidates, or residents, completing year-long residencies and 228 mentor teachers hosting year-long residencies with $2,000 and $1,000 stipends, respectively.

Educators and preparation leaders alike cite clear benefits to the shift.

“We view the year-long residency as a positive move toward assuring our candidates are better prepared for the realities of today’s classrooms and the diverse student populations that occupy them,” McAlister said. “This extension to a year-long residency better connects theory with practice, making the experience more meaningful for candidates, and may improve both their preparation and retention in a Louisiana classroom.”