State Audit Finds 54% of New Orleans Teachers Aren't Certified
Certified teachers are more effective, but Orleans Parish teachers are less likely to have that qualification
Teacher qualification and experience are an important part of providing a quality education for our children. Unfortunately, a recent report from Louisiana Legislative Auditor Michael Waguespack found that 54 percent of Orleans Parish teachers are not certified - a statistic that can have a significant impact on how effective they are at teaching New Orleans’ children.
According to the report, over 51.3 percent of certified teachers are rated effective-proficient or highly effective, the two highest ratings in the Louisiana Department of Education’s value-added model. By comparison, only 43.4 percent of uncertified teachers received the same ratings.
“Overall, we found that teachers with more experience and who are certified are likely to be more effective at improving their student’s academic performance,” the report reads.
Louisiana’s Charter School Demonstration Act allows charter schools to set their own criteria for teachers. As a result, according to the report, children attending charter schools are less likely to have access to teachers with the experience and certifications that made them more effective. Only 50.3 percent of teachers in Louisiana’s charter schools are certified, compared to 92.1 percent of traditional public school teachers. As an all-charter district, that means children in New Orleans are far less likely to be served by highly effective, certified educators with years of experience.
“On average, teachers in schools in Orleans Parish have the fewest years of experience and are the least likely to be certified as compared to teachers in other cities or in suburban, town, or rural schools,” the report notes.
In recent years, many have begun to feel that the experimental all-charter school district formed in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is a clear failure. This report, among others, seems to corroborate those sentiments.
“The influx of uncertified personnel is, in my professional opinion, directly related to the ‘push out’ of veteran educators and the lack of respect for the profession of teaching,” said Dr. Ashonta Wyatt, a veteran educator with nearly 20 years of experience and former principal at Edgar P. Harney in New Orleans.
“The findings in the audit simply highlight yet another jarring flaw in the reform experiment that continues to relegate our children and our community to subpar academic outcomes while proponents of this experiment continue to hide the failures of this current system in skewed data and misinformation. Truth is, our current system is flawed, whereby more than 70% of children are not reading on grade level and 50% of our schools are rated D or F (per the legislative auditor). Until we begin to have open and honest conversations regarding the state of education in the city of New Orleans, the needle of proficiency will continue to go in a less than favorable direction and our children will continue to bear the brunt of this system’s failure.”
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“There are few contributors more important to the academic success of a student than teacher quality,” said Louisiana Department of Education State Superintendent Dr. Cade Brumley in a written response to the report. “Students, in a state with long-standing educational challenges recently exacerbated by a pandemic and storms, deserve a high-quality teacher in every classroom. We exist to educate students but we cannot exist without teachers. Sadly, over several decades, we have too frequently left our teachers behind.”
Dr. Brumley suggests “seamless opportunities” for any person with a degree to become a teacher by offering them a direct line to certification and/or permanency through performance reviews. However, in spite of the reports focus on the superior effectiveness of certified teachers, Dr. Brumley also suggests non-traditional credentialing avenues could be important to teacher retention. Eventually, Dr. Brumely notes that turning to part-time and virtual solutions may be the answer:
“We must also consider flexible staffing for today’s mobile workforce in lieu of expectations that all teachers must be full-time employees. Finally, we should continue to explore alternative options to ensure students have access to the highest quality instructors which could, in the future, integrate additional technology while maintaining student privacy. The future is not the past; we must make adjustments to succeed.”
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ReportNOLA is the sole creation of Jennsen Bentley - a local, independent journalist who is dedicated to serving the community of New Orleans. As a proud member of the Society of Professional Journalists, he is dedicated to ethical reporting on issues that matter.