New Orleans is in uncharted territory. As recently as 2010, just three non-selective admissions schools had strong enough academic programs to earn an “A” or “B” from the state. A student in an open-enrollment public school had about a 1 in 20 chance of attending a high-quality school. Today, 1 in 3 New Orleans students attends a school rated “A” or “B” or showing rapid academic progress.
This progress has been instrumental in expanding opportunities for students throughout New Orleans, and it couldn’t have happened without the relentless hard work of excellent teachers like Erica Mariola, Susan Harvey, and hundreds of others.
As we look to ensure that every child in New Orleans has access to a high-performing school, teacher supply, quality, and retention will be among the most serious obstacles to achieving that goal over the next 10 years.
A Growing Need for Effective Teachers
Population growth and rising academic performance are driving more and more families into the city’s public school system. By 2025, New Orleans will likely need to hire nearly 1,000 teachers annually to meet growing demand.
And more will be required of those teachers. More rigorous standards, coupled with demand for a more personalized student experience, will mean that instruction—and even the classroom itself—will likely look very different in many schools than even a few years ago.
To accelerate the progress of the last 10 years, New Orleans must find ways to get more teachers who are both ready to be effective on Day 1, and are more likely to remain in the classroom.
Efforts to Recruit and Retain High-Quality Teachers
Currently, we see our schools and our partners engaged in three key strategies to address this looming teacher gap: 1) alternative pathway partners Teach For America and TNTP are maximizing the number of teachers they recruit, select, and place in New Orleans schools; 2) schools, charter management organizations, and other partners are coordinating efforts to recruit experienced teachers to teach in New Orleans; and 3) some schools have begun to experiment with pay scale adjustments and career ladders in an effort to retain their top performers.
An essential fourth strategy—creating additional pipelines of teachers ready to enter New Orleans classrooms by 2025—will require innovative partnerships and approaches. Fortunately, there is already significant momentum from a broad range of stakeholders who have begun to address this challenge.
Creating Additional Pipelines of Teachers
Over the next 10 years, New Orleans can differentiate itself as a national leader in innovative teacher preparation by creating new pathways to join the profession.
Strong urban residency programs will be one key to preparing new teachers. Evidence suggests that teachers prepared through these year-long residencies are more effective than traditionally trained teachers, and 80 percent remain in the classroom for at least five years.
Residency programs have the potential to attract a more diverse pool of candidates to the teaching profession; for example, Relay Graduate School of Education’s residency programs have attracted approximately 65 percent people of color in their initial cohorts—far higher than university-based teacher preparation programs, where less than 20 percent of graduates are non-white.
Relay is also exploring opportunities to attract talented non-education majors to teaching, providing undergraduates with structured opportunities to work with students in high-needs schools. This experience will help participants determine if teaching might be a good match for their skills and interests. At present, Relay is focused on building strong partnerships with local colleges. One key aim of work with undergraduates is to inspire and successfully train and support more local, diverse career teachers.
Brothers Empowered to Teach, a New Orleans-incubated organization, is working to bring more men of color into the teaching profession in two ways: 1) a fellowship program for current college students, and 2) a change track that identifies current professionals interested in joining the teaching profession.
Local CMOs are also developing innovative pathways into teaching. KIPP New Orleans Schools has designed a fellowship where KIPP Believe middle school alumni who are currently enrolled in college commit to interning at their alma mater during summer and winter breaks. These teaching fellows are mentored by senior teachers as they learn the art of teaching. They participate in a teacher certification program, and upon graduation from college they are hired as teachers at the school, leading the classrooms they once sat in as students.
The Need for a Comprehensive Approach
We want every student in New Orleans to be taught by consistently great teachers who can lead them to be prepared to succeed in college and career. To achieve this goal by 2025, we’ll need traditional teacher preparation programs, alternative certification programs, talent development organizations, and our public schools to work together to create and support a high-performing, sustainable teaching pipeline.
Doing this could help New Orleans become the first urban school system in which every child has the opportunity to attend a high-quality school.
Maggie Runyan-Shefa and Michael Stone are Co-CEOs of New Schools for New Orleans. Follow them at: @MaggieRSNOLA, @MStone_NOLA, and @nsno_nola.
This is the second in a series of blogs from education leaders in New Orleans—people in the trenches sharing their ideas about what’s next for the city’s public schools. Have some thoughts of your own? Send them our way and we will publish a compilation of responses.