Xavier University partners with charter schools in bid to diversify New Orleans' teaching force

ByJim Mustian

Read the full article at TheAdvocate.com >

Xavier University has joined forces with a nonprofit group at the forefront of the New Orleans charter school movement to create a first-of-its-kind “residency” program intended to diversify the city’s public school teaching force.

The program will primarily recruit Xavier University seniors and recent graduates, many of whom have ties to the community. It is the first such partnership in the country between charter schools and a historically black college or university.

K-12 teacher residents will receive coaching and mentoring from local charter schools and access to coursework — as well as a pathway to certification — from Xavier. The residents will receive on-the-job training as they work toward a master’s degree.

The program, funded by the nonprofit New Schools for New Orleans, aims to improve teacher retention and to increase the number of African-American instructors in the city’s classrooms. About half of the city’s teaching force is black, a percentage that has fallen since Hurricane Katrina and that does not reflect the heavily black student population of the city’s public schools.

“I am excited to see an influx of teachers in training who reflect the racial makeup of the public schools in New Orleans and who already have ties to our communities,” Jamar McKneely, chief executive officer of InspireNOLA Charter Schools, said in a statement.

“We will work in tandem with Xavier University to ensure that these teachers have the professional development and support that they need to fall in love with the profession and educate the students of New Orleans for years to come.”

Maggie Runyan-Shefa, the co-CEO of New Schools for New Orleans, called Xavier an “ideal partner” for the program. She said the university has “an outstanding track record of producing educators who understand how to meet the unique needs of our communities.”

The program will train between 25 and 40 residents a year. The university has partnered with Choice Foundation Schools, FirstLine Schools, InspireNOLA, KIPP New Orleans and New Orleans College Prep.

The university will officially announce the program, to be known as the Norman C. Francis Teacher Residency, Monday morning.