National Group Taps McNeese, Northwestern to Help Combat Certified Teacher Shortages – Sep 15, 2003
Nicholls, UL Monroe Begin Second Year of Program
BATON ROUGE, La. – The New Teacher Project, a national nonprofit organization aimed at improving teaching quality, has selected McNeese State University in Lake Charles and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches to help combat the critical shortage of qualified teachers in Louisiana.
McNeese and Northwestern will each recruit and train 50-75 people this year from other professions and help them become certified to teach. Each university will work with its local school districts to fill teaching vacancies in critical shortage areas such as math, science, special education and middle school education.
“Teaching quality is the most critical factor facing Louisiana education today. When we can guarantee every child a highly qualified teacher, we’ll transform education in this state,” University of Louisiana System President Sally Clausen said. “This program is a significant contribution to the effort, and I’m proud that our universities are a part of it.”
Currently, more than 12 percent of Louisiana teachers are either uncertified or teaching outside of their field of expertise, leaving about 100,000 Louisiana children without a certified teacher. The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires all teachers to be highly qualified by 2005, increasing the demand for certified teachers, especially in critical shortage and rural areas.
McNeese and Northwestern each received a $52,500 grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents to partner with The New Teacher Project for their first year. If funds are available, they will then be eligible for a second year of funding. Two other UL System institutions, Nicholls State University in Thibodaux and the University of Louisiana at Monroe, each received $40,000 grants for the second year of their programs. The University of New Orleans is also in its second year.
“Our goal is to identify outstanding professionals from the community and inspire them to become educators through a strategic recruitment initiative. Our expectation is that the partner universities will then carry on the initiative to meet the ongoing needs of their surrounding school systems,” said Meredyth Hudson, Regional Director for The New Teacher Project.
If the programs at Nicholls and UL Monroe are any indication, there is no shortage of aspiring teachers in Louisiana. Nicholls identified almost 30 eligible candidates for its programs last year after receiving 85 applications from business people, retired engineers, and lawyers. UL Monroe identified over 50 candidates out of the 150 applications received.
“We embrace this project because it is so closely aligned with Northwestern’s founding mission as an institution, which is to prepare classroom teachers,” said Northwestern President Dr. Randall J. Webb. “Northwestern is grateful to be part of this project. We strive to increase the number of students completing a teacher education curriculum by offering a program of high quality. The university will work closely with school systems in the region to help them provide good classroom instruction.”
“Education programs at McNeese have a history of strong enrollment, and over the past three years the university has graduated more than 850 teachers from its programs,” McNeese President Robert Hebert said. “The New Teacher Project will enable us to increase our contribution to quality education in Louisiana.”
Clausen said alternative certification programs have proven to be popular in Louisiana. “A lot of people get the calling to teach late in life after embarking on another career. These programs help professionals from outside of education gain the content knowledge and practice they need to be good teachers. In Louisiana, we need as many of them as we can get,” she said.
“The partnership with the New Teacher Project is a good fit for UL System universities,” Clausen said. The eight universities produce the majority of Louisiana’s teachers, prompting the System Board and its universities to make improving teacher preparation a top priority.
Earlier this year, the Board of Supervisors for the UL System raised the minimum score required for passage of the Praxis I test, a test that all teacher candidates must pass before entering colleges of education and the first step in attaining certification to teach.
It also prescribed ways for universities to increase the quantity of prospective teachers, especially minorities and those in critical shortage areas.
The New Teacher Project is a non-profit consulting organization that partners with school districts, states and other educational entities to enhance their capacity to recruit, select, train, and support outstanding new teachers. The New Teacher Project has attracted and prepared over 10,000 new, high-quality teachers and launched 39 programs in 19 states since 1997. In addition to its work in Louisiana, The New Teacher Project is currently working with school districts in New York; Washington; Los Angeles; Atlanta; and Baltimore, among others.
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