New Orleans on the vanguard (again) with a HBCU teacher residency program
December 8, 2016
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The HBCU responsible for producing more black doctors than any other institution in the United States is readying itself to produce homegrown teachers willing to teach in their own backyard.

A new partnership between Xavier University and five charter school management organizations in New Orleans will train teachers through the Dr. Norman C. Francis teacher residency program starting in the Fall of 2017.

An email blast from New Schools for New Orleans says this is “the first teacher residency partnership between an HBCU and charter management organizations in the country.”

The email goes on to explain the reasoning behind the new program:

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.

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.

According to the National Council of Teacher Residencies, programs like the one forming at Xavier build on the medial residency model by teaching underlying educational theory and providing real world practice.  Before new teachers are allowed to fly solo with a classroom full of students from under-resourced communities, they complete a “rigorous full-year classroom apprenticeship with masters-level education content.”

All of this is a notable sign of progress for New Orleans. For at least a decade school reform leaders have been dogged by community complaints about large numbers of charter school teachers who are not from New Orleans, who are perceived as being culturally mismatched with their students, and do not reflect the racial make up of the student body.

There is another sore spot that usually accompanies the claim about “outsider” teachers too.

The scab on the wound created when thousands of New Orleans Public Schools teachers were released from employment after Hurricane Katrina never quite heals, even all these years later. People often mentioned the “fired teachers” of New Orleans.

They rarely mention that a good number of teachers were rehired in new schools, but not the ones who couldn’t pass a basic skills test.

The promise of a new way to prepare teachers in New Orleans serves two important goals: producing indigenous teachers who teach where they are from, while also preparing teachers who can be effective in closing the achievement gap.

Achieving that would be real progress for a city that couldn’t be more deserving.

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