NSU gets BESE grant to help rural schools

NSU gets grants


Northwestern State University’s Gallaspy College of Education and Human Development was one of 13 Louisiana teacher preparation programs to receive a Believe and Prepare grant from the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, BESE announced. This round of grants focuses specifically on classrooms that serve students with disabilities and those in rural areas of Louisiana.

The $415,000 grant will enable faculty in NSU’s College of Education to recruit educators to work in rural schools in DeSoto, Grant, Natchitoches, Red River, Sabine and West Carroll parishes. In addition to tapping community members who are interested in teaching but are not yet certified, the program plans to partner with several districts to engage high school juniors and seniors. The initiatives are called Providing Opportunities for Rural Teachers (PORT) and Providing Opportunities for Rural Students (PORS).

“Over 60 percent of teachers teach within 20 miles of where they went to high school,” said Ramona Wynder, principal investigator of the two NSU initiatives, citing Dan Brown, co-director of national network Educators Rising. “Therefore, PORT will be marketed to paraprofessionals, long-term substitutes and other aspiring teachers with deep roots in the community. And PORS will help encourage high school students to pursue careers in education in hopes they will return to their home communities to live and work.”

“This innovative work allows communities to assist in the recruitment and development of teachers to meet their current and future workforce needs,” said Dr. Kimberly McAlister, head of the Department of Teaching, Leadership and Counseling.

In total, BESE approved $2.2 million in this grant cycle to expand teacher preparation residencies, a mixture of state and federal funds. A majority of the grant applications addressed the geographical challenges of rural districts by offering coursework at residency school sites and by using technology to provide virtual coursework or mentoring.

“Schools in rural parishes struggle to attract new graduates,” said State Superintendent John White. “Within the rural parishes participating in Louisiana’s Teacher Incentive Fund grant and partnering with preparation providers through Believe and Prepare, 13 percent of teachers were either uncertified or teaching out-of-field during the 2015-2016 school year. The establishment of undergraduate and post-baccalaureate residency programs creates a pipeline of excellent teachers into these rural schools and communities, and gives mentor teachers in those schools a chance to expand their practice.”

The Believe and Prepare Educator Grant Program began in spring 2014 and has since awarded $4.89 million to teacher preparation providers statewide.

For information on undergraduate, graduate and alternative certification programs offered by NSU’s Department of Teaching, Leadership and Counseling, visit tlc.nsula.edu or email McAlister at mcalisterk@nsula.edu or Wynder at wynderr@nsula.edu.