La. education official denies report on instructor training

A top higher education official Friday disputed criticism in a report earlier this week that faulted how Louisiana prepares teachers for the classroom.

Nearly half of the suggestions in the National Council on Teacher Quality review are already in place, according to a 10-page document prepared by Jeanne Burns, who is associate commissioner for teacher and leader initiatives for the state Board of Regents.

Burns played a key role in the state’s overhaul of college education programs to link student achievement with teacher training.

The changes were among the first in the nation.

On Wednesday the National Council on Teacher Quality, or NCTQ, which calls itself a nonpartisan research group in Washington, D. C., said the state deserved a “C” letter grade for how it prepares teachers.

The study said the state has lax admission rules to enter teacher-training programs, inadequate preparation to give instructions in more rigorous classes that start next year and that student teaching programs fall short.

But Burns’ report said universities already provide math, reading, science and social studies content geared to the needs of elementary school teachers, one of the issues cited in the report.

That training is also being aligned with the tougher curriculum — it is called common core — that will start being taught in Louisiana and most other states in the 2014-15 school year, according to Burns’ response to the study.

The NCTQ said the state requires prospective teachers to spend at least 270 hours in student teaching, including 180 hours of actual teaching.

The report said officials should require at least 10 weeks of student teaching.

Burns said prospective teachers are already in schools for more 10 or more weeks.

She said 10 of 19 universities reported that they require from 450 to 600 hours of student teaching.

“The report makes it sound like our campuses are not having students get a good student teaching experience,” Burns said in an interview.

Most of the other changes in the report, including tougher rules for teachers who use alternative certification to enter the classroom, would have to be addressed by the state Department of Education and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Burns said.

Kate Walsh, president of the NCTQ, said officials in Louisiana and elsewhere are allowed to file detailed responses to the group’s findings.

“I absolutely appreciate the frustration of public servants being graded all the time,” Walsh said.

The national average for states reviewed was “D plus.”