A few facts to think about:
- According to the Cowen Institute’s 2018 annual report, “The State of Public Education in New Orleans” for the past several years, Louisiana has experienced a decline in the total number of people earning teaching credentials.
- Reported by Tulane University, the rate of teachers leaving the teaching profession or leaving the city was as high as 25 percent annually.
- Another alarming fact – schools with high proportions of students of color are often concentrated in schools with less qualified teachers.
- Evidence of systemic bias in teacher expectation exists. Non-Black teachers were found to have lower expectations of Black students than Black teachers.
Unfortunately, this information above isn’t uncommon and it’s no secret that in K-12 education, states across the nation are facing teacher shortages, low numbers of state-licensed educators, high teacher retention rates, etc. The overarching challenge is school systems are now having to figure out solutions and quick. How do we address the teacher shortage? How do we recruit more teachers? Data shows that there’s a strong relationship between the preparation of teachers and their effectiveness in the classroom. It’s a sad fact that in low-income school systems, there are more unqualified teachers than those who are experienced, fully-certified educators. So then – how do we ensure we have well-prepared and certified teachers? And what can we do to ensure they continue teaching? What incentives are we offering new and experienced teachers? In most major U.S. cities, the student makeup in public school classrooms consist predominantly of Black and Brown students, while the educators are overwhelmingly White. For years researchers have shown that teacher representation matters. Recent studies have shown that if Black students have at least one Black elementary school teacher, their likelihood to graduate from high school and enroll in college is significantly increased. Then another question arises – how do we recruit more African-Americans into the K-12 teaching field?
Higher education, nonprofits and other industries have developed and implemented programs in an effort to meet and overcome these challenges. Colleges and universities including the University of Massachusetts and NYU have developed education programs – training, certification, residency and degree programs to incentivize students and even current professionals to become teachers. But HBCUs are in this space as well, after all most HBCUs were initially founded as teacher’s colleges. North Carolina A&T launched their Teacher Residency program in 2016. Coppin State also launched an innovative teacher preparedness program
As a former classroom teacher and as we celebrate all educators during Teacher Appreciation Week, I want to highlight an HBCU answering the call to easing the challenges facing Louisiana’s public education system, through their teacher residency program. In 2016 Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to change a policy in the way teachers are trained for the classroom. Before the policy change, programs often required classroom experience for 12 weeks prior to graduation. However, under the new rule, teacher candidates who want to teach in New Orleans, must complete a residency program that includes yearlong classroom experience with a veteran teacher.
Xavier University of Louisiana to the rescue.
In 2016 UNCF member institution, Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) launched the Norman C. Francis Teacher Residency Program (NFCTR) in partnership with 5 New Orleans charter schools. The program’s mission is to develop exceptional educators who want to make teaching their career. Program leaders aim to attack key issues in Louisiana’s education system – recruiting and retaining teachers and ensuring classroom teachers have the qualifications and training as indicated by state regulations.
One of the first teacher residency partnerships between a charter management organization and an HBCU, the program recruits XULA seniors, recent graduates and professionals from other industries to become licensed educators and teach in the city of New Orleans. Like most major US cities, the makeup of students in New Orleans public school classroom is predominantly Black and students of color, while the educators are overwhelmingly White. However, we know that teachers of color provide tangible benefits not just for Black students but for all students. The NCFTR program helps increase teacher diversity by providing a qualified pipeline of teachers of color.
While working toward their master’s degree, Teacher Residents receive mentoring and coaching from an experienced teacher and on-the-job classroom training at an elementary, middle or high school. Residents are alongside their more experienced peers and learn hands on how proven teaching models are brought to life in a the classroom setting.
At the end of the four-year program, Residents will earn their master’s degree in elementary education and are certified to teach in New Orleans schools. Currently, the four New Orleans schools where Residents are placed include InspireNOLA, KIPP New Orleans, New Beginnings School Foundation and New Orleans College Prep – with other locations on the horizon.
In the program’s first year, 25 Residents were accepted into the program. Now in its second year, current residents are on schedule to graduate from the program with their XU master’s degree, state teacher certification and secured placement in the classrooms of local New Orleans charter schools. The program is led by Kenya Kennedy Campbell, a graduate of both Xavier University of Louisiana and Grambling State University. In a video produced by WYES-TV/Channel 12 that spotlighted the Norman C. Francis Residency Program, Campbell says of the program, “The experience coupled with the coursework and residency experience with their co-teacher, networking with faculty and staff – gives them exactly what they need to be successful as teachers.”
Not only during this 2019 Teacher Appreciation Week, but all year long – we say thank you to Xavier for answering the call to educate and prepare the next generation of qualified educators in New Orleans. As the state of Louisiana moves to providing pathways to prosperity for all students by ensuring all children have access to quality PreK-12 education, high quality curriculum and a pool of talented and qualified black educators – the Norman C. Francis Teacher Residency Program of Xavier is certainly doing its part to developing exceptional next generation leaders.
Sekou Biddle is vice president for advocacy for the United Negro College Fund.
Read more about the Norman C. Francis Teacher Residency Program or if you or someone you know is interested in becoming a teacher (financing options are available) visit http://nolateacherresidency.org/about. Lastly, be sure to check out uncf.org for more stories celebrating education successes in New Orleans.