In partnership with the Louisiana Department of Education, funding will train 550+ diverse paraprofessionals for teaching positions in Baton Rouge's public schools via job-embedded degree apprenticeships and certifications.
BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 29, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Reach University, in partnership with the Louisiana Resource Center for Educators (LRCE) and New Schools for Baton Rouge (NSBR), is the recipient of a projected $6.9 million U.S. Department of Education grant to accelerate the expansion of a teacher preparation degree apprenticeship to fill critical educator vacancies in Baton Rouge's highest-need districts.
The grant is part of the U.S. Department of Education's Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program, and it comes on the heels of the Department's recently announced Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) awards, which also featured Reach University as a grant recipient. Earlier this month the TQP program awarded Reach an expected $8.7 million to grow teacher degree apprenticeships in Arkansas.
This latest grant funds Reach's work in Louisiana and will place fully-certified teachers, specialized in math, science, and English language arts, in high-need parishes within three years, with a total of 550+ teachers filling critical vacancies within five years.
"The state of Louisiana places a top priority on growing high-quality teacher prep programs that break down historical barriers, support districts in recruiting local, representative educators, and ensure that every teacher who enters the classroom is qualified, experienced, and ready," said Em Cooper, Deputy Assistant Superintendent of Educator Development, Louisiana Department of Education. "Individually, Reach, LRCE and NSBR have played a distinct role in this effort. Together, they will dramatically accelerate the recruitment and placement of specialized, STEM-qualified, and certified teachers in schools that need it most."
The program places two long-standing goals into focus: quantifying the teacher shortage and building inclusive and high-quality pathways into the field of teaching for a diverse set of adult learners. Although the program's innovative and nontraditional pathway is open to any adult learner, it is with community college graduates where there is the greatest program focus and opportunity.
"Similar to our recent ED TQP grant award, there is no ramp-up time in this effort. Reach, LRCE and NSBR are putting these funds to use today, day one," said Joe Ross, President, Reach University. "With this SEED funding, we'll double Reach's qualified teacher pipeline from nearly 600 to 1,200 diverse educators across underserved parishes in Baton Rouge and throughout Louisiana. In parallel, we'll more closely align local community colleges with K-12 districts to redefine the A.A. to B.A. pathway and create a new type of professional and debt-free degree opportunity for historically overlooked talent."
Reach's teacher degree apprenticeships ensure districts can grow their own educators by recruiting local talent to fill needed paraprofessional roles. Once the paraprofessional is hired, they will begin a fully job-embedded teacher apprenticeship, where their job leads to a debt-free bachelor's degree. Upon degree completion, the paraprofessional will move into a full-time teaching role in their "home" parish. Teacher vacancy progression is tracked using a first of its kind labor analytics technology platform from Reach's partner, Craft Education System.
Associate degree holders will secure their bachelor's degree and teaching certification in three years or less. The grant will continue to fuel the integration of the final year of Reach's undergraduate program and the first year of LRCE's job-embedded alternative certification licensure program, ensuring the B.A. to teacher certification process is more accessible, affordable, and accelerated.
"Under a shared set of beliefs rooted in educational equity for all, we are proud to partner with Reach University and NSBR to ensure paraeducators have the knowledge and skill to become certified, champion teachers impacting students for years to come," said Christopher Joyce, Senior Director of Programs, Louisiana Resource Center for Educators. "Together, we'll create pathways for folks already invested in their school community to receive the same foundational training that led to previous Louisiana Teachers of the Year and Milken Award Winners. We cannot wait to see the impact that these Reachers will have as they become LRCE champion teachers."
Reach's degree-bearing teacher apprenticeships offer a solution to long standing diversity and retention challenges seen throughout the country, and are amplified in rural and low-income communities. The program ensures districts can recruit a diverse candidate pool, in which at least 50% of program completers and future teachers identify as Black, Indigenous and/or people of color. 90%+ of candidates are then hired and retained in their "home" districts for no less than three years. Demographic rates mirror Reach's other district partners across Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, California, and others.
"In partnership with Reach & LRCE, NSBR is building upon its long-standing mission to ensure every student has an excellent educational experience, driven by an exceptional educator and school. This funding ensures we are able to embed culturally relevant and sustaining practices that promote increases in academic achievement, while decreasing adverse behaviors by supporting social-emotional growth in students and teachers," said Kenneth Campbell, Chief Executive Officer, New Schools for Baton Rouge (NSBR).
SEED funding will serve future educators molding the educational experience of more than 6,200 socioeconomically disadvantaged and minority students in and around Baton Rouge's public schools. The program will soon also expand to other high-need rural and low-income LEAs in the state experiencing systemic teacher shortages, many of which where Reach is already working and utilizing existing state and federal workforce development funding to train future educators.
As part of the Department's larger $60 million SEED announcement, Tulane University's Educational Fund, in which Reach is a subgrantee and partner, was also awarded $10.7 million to expand teacher undergraduate and graduate degree programs in New Orleans.
ABOUT REACH UNIVERSITY
Reach University is a regionally accredited, nonprofit university that pioneers debt-free apprenticeship-based degrees. Reach is actively solving America's teacher shortage by creating fully-embedded pathways for high-potential individuals to earn degrees, credentials and jobs as teachers within their own communities. By focusing on low-income, urban and rural regions, offering online tutorials and classes, and rendering academic credit for on-the-job experience, Reach University is eliminating barriers to entry in high-need professions, and building grow-your-own pipelines of locally representative talent.
LRCE is an alternative certification program that has trained over 2,050 teachers for the state of Louisiana since 2003 – teachers like Tanner Swain, Kimberly Eckert (2018 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year), Stephanie Whetstone (2018-19 Milken Educator Award winner), and numerous district and state-level Teacher of the Year recipients. Our teachers' journeys continue long after training at LRCE: our alumni include leaders of Louisiana schools, district superintendents and educational nonprofits. Our teacher placements target high-need subject areas (math, science and special education) in our neediest rural, urban and alternative school communities. LRCE works directly with individuals within these communities who have obtained a college degree and are seeking a teaching certification. LRCE's approach of placing local teacher talent into high-need areas coupled with our training and support, results in higher teacher retention. Most LRCE teachers stay in public schools for at least five years – a rate double that of many other alternative certification programs. This retention rate has long lasting positive impacts in our Louisiana communities and creates a solid human capital foundation.
Founded in 2012, New Schools for Baton Rouge (NSBR) is a community partnership that brings together talent and resources to deliver excellent schools to students and families in Baton Rouge. Its mission is to ensure there is an excellent school for every child in our city and we invest in programs and initiatives that support the success of schools to expand and sustain excellence citywide.
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