Teachers need one-year residency
Aspiring teachers need classroom experience before they are allowed to teach. But the real question lies in how much experience is actually needed for them to be prepared after college.
Two years ago, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) narrowly approved a policy change that requires college students to do a residency, starting with the college freshman class in 2018.
That means working with an experienced teacher for roughly one year, instead of just their last college semester.
The change came about after a 2014 survey of new teachers, with nearly half of them saying they were unprepared to teach after graduation.
BESE’s decision in 2016 included an option for colleges to create their own models to get teachers better prepared before they start working. The board’s approval hasn’t been without its detractors.
State Education Superintendent John White said BESE should wait before making a decision on the Geaux Teach plan for Louisiana State University and another one for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette because it falls short of the one-year residency. But the board went ahead and approved the plan recently.
The Geaux Tech program lets college students get degrees to teach subjects like biology, chemistry, math and physics to middle and high school students.
Frank Neubrander, a math professor at LSU, told the Advocate that a one-year residency won’t work for content majors, like math and chemistry. They argued that the Geaux Teach program has enough subject material that it would be too much to add a one-year residency.
LSU students would spend their fall semester teaching one day each week and roughly five days a week in the spring. But BESE President Gary Jones said the 20 percent of teaching time during the fall semester teaching isn’t long enough.
The heart of the issue lies in making sure college students have the right balance of classroom experience and knowledge of the subject they are going to teach before they actually start their jobs.
The success of Louisiana’s education system depends on quality teachers, and we must make sure they are ready to go on day one. While several BESE members are backing these university-arranged plans, we will have to see if they provide enough in-class experience to get them there.