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Louisiana Taps into the Power of School Systems to Address Rural Teacher Shortages

As has been noted frequently (this year by the Aspen Institute, Chiefs for Change, and Education Next- and soon, by ERS*), the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) has become a leader in ensuring districts have access to, and support around, rigorous college-and-career-ready curricula—a critical role for school systems in transforming results. 

But students have the best chance for success when excellent curricula are taught by well-prepared teachers, and Louisiana school systems—particularly in rural areas—are struggling to hire and retain enough effective teachers. Aspiring teachers in these areas have limited access to teacher preparation programs, and uncertified or out-of-field teachers lead 21 percent of less affluent rural classrooms. The LDOE is taking action to couple its investment in high-quality curricula with support to rural districts to design and implement teacher residency programs. 

The LDOE recently announced the recipients of a $675,000 grant that will fund a cohort of rural districts to work with ERS to design and implement a teacher residency program. These residencies will provide aspiring teachers who already have a college degree with a pathway to certification, experienced mentors, and ongoing, job-embedded professional learning. Seven "Core School Systems" will receive intensive supports in 2017-18 to design a program suited to the needs of their schools and to then implement their pilot programs in one school in 2018-19. Nine other districts will form a "Community of Learning" to focus on best practices, with the option to pilot a residency program in one school. ERS is working with the LDOE to help all of these school systems brainstorm, share knowledge, and develop pilots tailored to the specific needs of their own districts. This support comes in the form of in-person sessions in Louisiana, office hours with ERS, and individual support on redesigning their budgets, job descriptions, and master schedules to create space for the residency.

School systems can create conditions for successful teacher residency implementation in their schools by helping them create a strong vision for student and teacher success, and by helping them deliberately reorganize resources—people, time, technology, and money—around that vision. At ERS, we call this strategic school design. We created a three-pillared framework of shelter, development, and reach to guide the cohort's school design efforts around residencies. Each of the core districts will pilot the program in one school with a focus on getting it right through innovation and adaptation, before scaling up throughout the school system.

Three Pillars to Guide Successful Design and Implementation of Teacher Residencies








Student Success


A manageable workload for new teachers while they improve their craft will reduce burnout and improve retention

Coaching and professional development from their certification program and school will make new teachers more effective

Increasing the class size of effective teachers or staffing them as coaches to other teachers will result in more students learning from effective educators

Related ERS Resources

Talent Decision Planner

Igniting the Learning Engine

Teacher Leadership Checklist

Teacher Leadership Building Block

The pilot teacher training programs are an example of a state investing in a process from start to finish, from curricula to classroom learning. In Louisiana, school systems are encouraged and supported to help their schools redesign to create more opportunities and supports for new and aspiring teachers.

 *  In January, ERS will publish a case study of how LDOE used its resources to identify, create, and support the adoption of high-level curricula.

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