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The La. “Teaching Authorization”: Potentially Teach for Life With No Ed Degree– But There’s a Catch

September 11, 2019

On September 09, 2019, the Hechinger Report published an article entitled, “A New Teacher Vows to Help in a Classroom Full of Need: ‘Under the Right Conditions, They’d Be Stars.'”

The article features a teaching intern who is part of the Norman C. Francis Teacher Residency, an alternative teacher certification program specifically aimed at recruiting individuals who already hold a bachelors degree in another area to agree to teach three years beyond an initial “residency year” at an assigned New Orleans charter school in exchange for roughly $29K in residency-year financial assistance toward earning a masters degree in education.

From the site’s “about” page:

Who we are

The Residency is a first-of-its-kind partnership not only in New Orleans, but nationally.

And from the “what to expect” page:

Residency Year 1

The Norman C. Francis Teacher Residency merges the best of Xavier University of Louisiana’s teacher preparations practices with the work of five of New Orleans’ leading charter school networks.  During the residency year, a cohort of 30 residents enroll as full-time graduate school students, while also apprentice teaching at schools in the NCFTR network. Residents attend graduate school classes as they work alongside a mentor teacher in a classroom throughout the week.  They build confidence through practice and reflection, and over the course of the year, they gradually take on greater responsibility in the classroom.

Employment in Years 2-4

After year 1, the NCFTR team works with teachers and schools to ensure that the transition into year 2 is smooth. Residents who successfully complete the residency year move into classrooms of their own as full-time teachers of record. While working to complete their remaining Master’s Degree coursework, they apply the skills and knowledge they have built in order to take on the responsibilities of lead teaching. They continue to access the network of support that they have built with their residency year cohort.

Residents commit to teach for three consecutive years immediately following the residency year. After Year 1, Residents are highly likely to remain in the same school or CMO for their additional three-year commitment. Participants who leave a NCFTR partner school before their four-year commitment ends may be responsible for paying back a portion of funds received in their residency year.

The Hechinger Report notes, New Orleans schools suffer from both teacher turnover and teacher inexperience:

Nearly four of 10 of New Orleans’ public school teachers have three years’ experience or less, according to a new, year-long analysis that will be published this fall by the Greater New Orleans Foundation, NOLA Public Schools, W. K. Kellogg Foundation (the Kellogg Foundation is among the many supporters of The Hechinger Report) and Baptist Community Ministries. Clustered in high-poverty schools, the most inexperienced teachers don’t last: More than a quarter of them leave teaching each year. This year-to-year instability leaves the city’s most vulnerable kids with fewer familiar adults who know the children and their families.

The article makes no mention of continued teacher turnover as an expected byproduct of dependence upon the likes of Teach for America (TFA), a teacher-temp-gone-ed-leader org that is very much a part of those “ushered-in” ed reforms mentioned in connection with the mass firing of New Orleans teachers in 2005:

Before Hurricane Katrina, nearly three-quarters of public school teachers here were black and most were committed to the profession, with an average of 15 years’ experience. They were fired en masse after the storm, as state-led school reforms were ushered in.

So now, ed reform orgs like New Schools for New Orleans and numerous New Orleans charter schools have an arrangement that is pretty sweet for them because it ropes in would-be teachers for at least four years at a specific New Orleans charter school.

But there is another piece:

I looked up the teaching credential of the individual featured in the Hechinger Report and found something I had not ever seen before:

A “teaching authorization” issued for life at a time when the recipient had just begun a teacher certification degree program (in other words, the recipient held no education degree at the time of issuance) for only Orleans Parish and only “valid for continuous service for the period and place of employment.”

So, the first head-turning info is that the “teaching authorization” is issued for life right from the get-go. There is no deadline set for this certificate to expire, no deadline by which the recipient must complete the teacher certification degree. Therefore, one need never complete the teacher certification process to renew this certification.

The second head-turn relates to the recipient being tethered to Orleans Parish.

The third concerns the wording about “continuous service for the period and place of employment.”

  • Continuous service implies no break in teaching– that the recipient must continue to teach from one year to the next. However, the term “continuous service” as concerns certain Louisiana certificates allows for up to but not including five years of disuse.
  • “For the period” is murky if for no other reason than it’s being included on a certificate for life. However, as it stands, the period is one that never expires– otherwise, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) could have included an expiration date on the document.
  • “For place of employment” is also a bit of a mystery since the Francis teacher residency language implies that a participant could be sent to a different school following Year 1 (the internship year). According to Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) Bulletin 745 on Teacher Authorizations (TA), “A TA is valid only for the period during which the individual is employed by the employing school governing authority making the initial TA request.” So, new school, new teacher authorization– which apparently can only be made at the request of the school, not the individual.

According to Bulletin 745, only “a public or nonpublic school that does not require a Louisiana teaching certificate for employment” can go the route of the teaching authorization (as opposed to full-fledged teacher certification).” Since Louisiana’s traditional public school teachers are required to hold a teaching certificate (because, according to Bulletin 746, the traditional public schools “fall under the jurisdiction of BESE”), the *public* schools that allow for teaching authorizations appear to be charter schools.

Based upon the teacher authorization, it would be possible for someone to not finish the masters degree and still teach under this credential for endless years so long as that teacher remains at the same New Orleans school.

If the teacher finishes the masters degree according to plan in the second year, then it seems that the teaching credential could be modified to reflect as much. (In other words, the teaching authorization could become a teaching certificate.)

As concerns the Francis teacher residency, once the credentialing is complete (at the end of Year 2 according to plan), the participant could leave the assigned New Orleans charter school but “may be responsible for paying back a portion of funds received in their residency year.”

However, once Year 4 (which is actually only the third year of teaching as the teacher of record) is over, the teacher could seek a teaching position elsewhere in Louisiana and exit New Orleans altogether.

Since the Francis teacher residency is relatively new, it remains to be seen if the program will result in greater teacher retention in New Orleans’ charter schools, especially among those participants who successfully attain the masters degree in education, which would allow them to also move from the New Orleans-tethered teacher authorization to an actual teaching certificate– and able to exit New Orleans after teaching for only three years– which does nothing to retain teachers in New Orleans.

But there is also the question of how many individuals will start the Francis teacher residency without completing it and still remain as potentially-lifetime teachers of record in some Orleans Parish charter school if for no other reason than the inability to teach anywhere else in Louisiana– which could, ironically, “improve” teacher retention rates in New Orleans charter schools.

The results of this program– and the teaching authorization for “life” connected to it– will be worth watching.

money fishhook

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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5 Comments
  1. Kathy Edmonston Gmail permalink

    Very important and telling piece. Thank you for posting. Do you believe LA can be turned around in regards to education!??

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • If by “turned around,” you mean restoring a pro-traditional-public -ed predominant attitude, yes, but we have to get John White out, and that will take flipping BESE.

  2. Betty Peters permalink

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