This Historically Black College is working with charter schools to prepare teachers for success in Louisiana

ByMaggie Runyan-Shefa (op-ed)

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On Monday, New Schools for New Orleans joined with Xavier University of Louisiana, to announce the launch of the Norman C. Francis Teacher Residency—a partnership between Xavier and five New Orleans charter organizations: Choice Foundation Schools, FirstLine Schools, InspireNOLA, KIPP New Orleans, and New Orleans College Prep.

This is the first teacher residency partnership between an HBCU (historically Black colleges and universities) and charter management organizations in the country.

With the generous help and support of the National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR) SEED grant and support from both national and local philanthropy, The Norman C. Francis Teacher Residency will be an avenue for local graduates to pursue a career in teaching through a one-year apprenticeship and two years of graduate coursework at Xavier.

Starting in the fall of 2017, 25 residents will work alongside professors from Xavier and mentor teachers at one of the five charter networks to prepare for classrooms of their own.

We’ve had the opportunity to get to know some amazing teachers through our New Orleans Excellence in Teaching Award. Teachers like Jamie Irish at KIPP Renaissance and Greg Sextion at Samuel Green Charter School, whose students come back to campus long after graduation looking for extra tutoring from teachers they know will always help them succeed. Teachers like Kristi Walton at Langston Hughes Academy and Sylvia Crier, whose classrooms are familiar bedrocks of excellence for families in our community.

The hard work of these teachers and their colleagues in classrooms across our city have driven the academic progress we’ve seen over the last decade.

Preparing Teachers For Success

And yet, the work ahead of us will require even more of the educators in our city. To become the system of schools we envision, we must continue to work on getting excellent teachers into every classroom.

When the Louisiana Department of Education asked new teachers, principals, district leaders, and teacher preparation programs what could better prepare educators for success in the classroom, the number one answer was consistent practice. Policymakers listened.

In October, the Louisiana Board of Secondary and Elementary Education (BESE) enacted policy to require a yearlong apprenticeship for all undergraduate education students wanting to teach in Louisiana public schools.

Residencies have a strong track record of preparing teachers to start and stay in the classroom. Though structure may vary, these programs operate very much like a medical residency. Just as a new doctor prepares, the bulk of a teacher resident’s time is spent learning alongside a master teacher before gradually developing the skills and completing the hours of practice necessary to become the teacher of record.

This intense, practiced-based preparation ensures the teacher understands the rigor of the profession and has had intense coaching and feedback before being responsible for a classroom of students.

Getting More Xavier Graduates in Classrooms

Xavier University of Louisiana, lauded for preparing more Black doctors than any institution in the nation, has also been preparing excellent teachers for our schools since the university was founded in 1925. Xavier has long emphasized deep content knowledge and practice in their teacher preparation programs, requiring extensive field experience and student teaching from their education students. When we talk to school leaders about where their effective teachers come from, Xavier’s programs are always high on the list.

In the fall of 2015, we met with Dr. Renee Akbar, the Chair of Xavier’s Division of Education and Counseling, and New Orleans school leaders to discuss how to get more Xavier graduates in front of New Orleans public school students. A little over a year later, we are thrilled to see the Norman C. Francis Teacher Residency launch.

In the same way Dr. Norman Francis impacted the success of thousands of Xavier graduates during his nearly 50 years leading the university, it is our hope that, with practice and mentorship, these residents will impact countless numbers of New Orleans students as teachers for years to come.