Southeastern awarded half million Gates grant to enhance teacher preparation

Thursday, December 3, 2015
by: Rene Abadie

     HAMMOND – Southeastern Louisiana University has been named to one of five newly-formed Teacher Preparation Transformation Centers designed to bring together higher education institutions, teacher-preparation providers and K-12 school systems to share data, knowledge and best practices.
    Southeastern is the only teacher-preparation program in Louisiana invited to participate.
    Funding for the projects amounts to a total of $34.7 million over three years provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Each center is expected to test different approaches in various contexts to better understand teacher-preparation practices that are most effective. The Transformation Centers will be guided by a common set of indicators and outcomes while testing different approaches.
    Each center includes several universities. Southeastern’s College of Education will be part of the University-School Partnerships for the Renewal of Educator Preparation (U.S.PREP) National Center based at Texas Tech University.
    Southeastern will receive approximately $534,000 over the three-year period, explained Shirley Jacob, interim dean of the College of Education. Other universities participating in U.S.PREP are Jackson State University, Southern Methodist University, the University of Houston and the University of Memphis.    
     “We know through years of experience that one of the main impacts on students’ learning is the presence of a highly-effective, qualified teacher,” Jacob said.  “This project is intended to help all teacher-preparation programs better prepare our teacher-candidates to be successful in the classroom.”
    The overall goal of U.S.Prep is to produce exemplary new teachers for their partner school districts who outperform new teachers prepared in other teacher-preparation programs. The school districts partnering with Southeastern are the St. Charles Parish School District and the Ascension Parish Public School District.
    “We have worked closely and very cooperatively with both these districts for years now. They have served as sites for our teacher candidates to practice their student teaching under the supervision of one or more of their own highly competent teachers,” Jacobs said. “They are fully committed to the goal of improving their own instructors, as well as helping us develop a high quality generation of new teachers.”
    “We welcome the opportunity for our district to be engaged in the development and implementation of a transformative teacher preparation program,” said Patrice Pujol, superintendent of Ascension Public Schools. “We look forward to our district, school and teacher leaders collaborating with university faculty to assure that teacher education candidates are strategically placed with strong mentors in the schools.
    Felecia Gomez-Walker, superintendent of St. Charles Parish Public Schools noted that the district and Southeastern have collaborated over many years to develop an excellent student teaching experience for future teachers, which has led to development of a one-year apprenticeship model now in effect.
    “District personnel will interact with university faculty to strategically coordinate teacher education candidate field placements and residencies in our school district,” she added. “This collaboration has the potential to positively impact the work we are doing to prepare teachers for the 21st Century classrooms.”
    U.S.PREP and its coalition members are expected to achieve several specific quality objectives, including preparing new teachers who possess exceptional content knowledge and teaching skills; developing a program culture focused on continuous improvement using outcome and design-based research data; ensuring teacher educator effectiveness is elevated through professional develop programs based on solid research; enhancing the common school and university vision of preparation of teacher candidates through collaborative implementation; and developing an effective peer-to-peer university model that helps jumpstarts a revolution of improved teacher-preparation programs.
    “We are looking forward to working cooperatively with Ascension Public Schools and St. Charles Public School System next fall on this project” Jacob added. “Their leaders are dedicated to continuous quality improvement among their own teachers and in assisting Southeastern in helping to create a new generation of highly skilled and competent teachers.”
    Southeastern maintains one of the largest teacher preparation programs in Louisiana. Currently approximately 800 students are enrolled in the teacher preparation project.

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