A total of 1,786 degrees were awarded during the UL Lafayette’s 161st Commencement ceremonies Friday at the Cajundome and Convention Center.
Dr. Gerald CarlsonUL Lafayette’s Dean from the College of Education was among deans from Louisiana’s 21 public and private colleges of education who were recognized by Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, the Louisiana Legislature and the Board of Regents.
Dr. Gerald Carlson and others received praises for leading the charge to accomplish a feat most states have found elusive – the successful redesign of teacher preparation and educational leadership programs at all universities in the state. These efforts have resulted in Louisiana’s recognition as a national leader in the improvement of teacher preparation and educational leadership programs.
“ These accomplishments would not have occurred without the collaborative partnerships that have existed among the Governor, Board of Regents, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Louisiana Department of Education, the university system boards, all public and private universities, and the partnering districts,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Joseph Savoie. “Other states are envious of the unique partnerships that exist in our state.”
Over the past four years, faculty from universities and local school districts across Louisiana have been actively engaged in the redesign of all regular and alternate teacher preparation programs for grades PK-12. These new programs were initially evaluated by national experts, and additional improvements were made to the programs before they were approved for implementation by July 1, 2003.
District and university partners have now redesigned all graduate programs in teacher education and educational leadership. These programs have also been evaluated by national consultants, and all approved programs will be implemented on July 1, 2006.
“ The redesign of these programs has taken a tremendous amount of time and effort,” said Jeanne Burns, Associate Commissioner for Teacher Education Initiatives for the Board of Regents and Governor. “However, we have now seen an increase in the number of new teachers completing teacher preparation programs in Louisiana from 2,336 in 2001-02 to 2,664 in 2003-04. In addition, the number of teachers completing our teacher preparation programs meeting all certification requirements at the point of completion have increased from 89% in 1999-2000 to 99% in 2003-2004. Our numbers have increased and our quality has improved.”
All redesigned programs are now aligned with Louisiana’s K-12 content standards, Louisiana’s teacher standards, and Louisiana’s educational leadership standards, and better address the needs of teachers, leaders, and students.
“ It is critical that new teachers and new principals understand the new expectations in our PK-12 schools in Louisiana and leave their university programs prepared to help students achieve at higher levels,” said State Superintendent Cecil Picard. “Our new certification requirements and the university redesign efforts are helping us achieve that goal.”
“ Many of the changes that have been made to the programs are a result of the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission,” said Frances Henry, member of the Board of Regents and co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Commission. “We are often asked to help other states understand why our Commission has been so successful when other Commissions are struggling.”
“ We all understand the importance of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Regents aligning our efforts and working with the Governor to implement the Commission’s recommendations,” said Glenny Lee Buquet, member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Commission. “This has helped us to secure funds from the U.S. Department of Education and The Wallace Foundation to support many of the redesign activities involving the universities and districts.”
Today’s recognition events also acknowledge Louisiana’s growing national reputation as a leader in teacher education improvement. Among recent examples of such national recognition are the following:
• Louisiana has been identified by the New York Times as one of five states leading other states in improving the preparation of new teachers and educational leaders. A video clip and written information about the work of Louisiana's Blue Ribbon Commission for Educational Excellence and the redesign of all teacher preparation is now being highlighted as part of the New York Times Knowledge Network on the New York Times web site.
• The Center for Teaching Quality has identified Louisiana as one of a limited number of states where higher education and K-12 education are sharing data for the purpose of improving the preparation of new teachers. The center recently completed case studies about Louisiana, Virginia, and Illinois to provide the nation with examples of states that are “building a comprehensive teaching quality data system that will help universities, the state, and the nation answer questions about how to define a quality teacher and what steps need to be taken to recruit, prepare, and retain them.”
• Education Week’s 2005 and 2006 Quality Counts Report ranks Louisiana number one in the nation for two consecutive years in Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality and has awarded Louisiana a grade of “A” each year. The redesign of all teacher preparation programs and the implementation of a rigorous Teacher Preparation Accountability System assisted the state in attaining the number one rating.