Cameron School Board finds success with pilot program
The Cameron Parish School Board was recently featured in a special report by the Louisiana Department of Education regarding the district’s participation in a new grant-based initiative to better prepare alternative certification teacher candidates.
Eight rural parishes in Louisiana are involved in a pilot program designed to help full-time teachers who have no formal college education training and often have not interacted with a K-12 classroom since they were a student.
The state has made concerted efforts to get education majors ready for the classroom by implementing yearlong residencies for college seniors.
However, college graduates with no education degree, enter the teaching field without the same strict guidelines in their alternative certification path.
According to the LDOE, 20 percent of alternative certification teachers quit after only two years, which directly affects student learning.
Kristi Ledoux, Cameron Parish Believe and Prepare coordinator, said the parish applied to participate in the grant program because its location made it hard to find qualified teachers.
“Our district is very unique in that we have only four schools from pre-K to 12, and they are geographically distant from Lake Charles or Sulphur,” she said. “This puts us at a disadvantage because it’s particularly difficult to find certified teachers to staff our most rural schools on the coast.”
The distance has directly affected the parish’s new teacher retention rate, said Ledoux, especially among new teachers with no college education background. Last year, one of Cameron’s most rural schools hired four different social studies teachers, and none lasted through the spring, she said. Ultimately, the district had to bring in a long-term substitute.
“It’s hard to staff those schools because people don’t live down there, and there’s not enough homegrown people in education that do live there who want to work in those school systems.”
Problems with turnover have dropped in the district, now that the grant is in place and teachers are getting help from mentors, Ledoux said. Each school in Cameron has a different implementation, but she said morale among new teachers is more positive. They have daily opportunities to co-teach, debrief and observe the methods of an experienced mentor.
“The teachers are constantly exposed to good teaching and expertise in teaching,” Ledoux said. “They’re not just thrown to the sharks like once upon a time. We’re trying to shelter these mentee teachers so that they feel comfortable and confident in what they’re doing. They’re not just treading water or feeling like they’re drowning.”
Long-term effects of the program will take a full year to determine, but Ledoux said the outlook is “truly promising.”