Louisiana releases toolkit to increase mentoring for alternate certification teachers

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

New teachers completing post-baccalaureate or "alternate certification" programs often receive little classroom-based training prior to entering the profession. The Louisiana Department of Education today released a toolkit of resources to help schools provide these teaching candidates with significantly more time to practice with an expert mentor.

The toolkit, which is now available online, includes a case study of eight pilot programs that have successfully implemented cost-neutral models to support increased mentorship opportunities for these teachers, as well as guidance on how to adjust teaching assignments, class schedules and internal teacher support systems to accommodate those opportunities.

"Research shows that structured support from and practice with a strong mentor teacher has a significant impact on teacher success and student growth," said State Superintendent John White. "Our pilot programs have shown it's possible to provide these teaching candidates with strong mentorship without a high price tag. The release of the toolkit is the next step in effecting change in communities statewide."

The toolkit follows the release of two key reports in as many years. In September 2017, the Department studied and reported on the issue of alternate certification preparation in "Access to Full Preparation in Rural Communities." That report led to the establishment of a pilot grant program aimed at improving alternate certification preparation in rural school systems.

In December 2018, it released "Full Preparation for All Teachers: Mentoring in Alternate Preparation Programs," a report highlighting important lessons learned from these pilots thus far that offer insight into how Louisiana can strengthen alternate certification candidates' experiences. On average, the pilots offer candidates structured practice and mentoring for one period per day, every day, during the entire school year and provide time for co-teaching, collaborative planning, and observation and feedback sessions. The pilots triple the amount of mentoring that these teachers typically receive, making the preparation experience substantially more supportive than what current policy requires.

The toolkit was developed in partnership with Education Resource Strategies (ERS), a national nonprofit that partners with district, school, and state leaders to transform how they use resources so that every school prepares every child for tomorrow.

"Through our decade-plus working with school systems, we have seen how difficult it can be for school leaders to find the resources to invest in properly supporting rookie teachers," said ERS Partner David Rosenberg, who led the work with Louisiana. "But leaders in the Louisiana pilot districts have designed innovative models that create time for one-to-one coaching and deeper support for rookie teachers. These approaches have the potential to accelerate new teachers' impact and encourage them to stay in the classroom longer."

Contributed by the Louisiana Department of Education