A controversial overhaul of how teachers are trained for the classroom put aspiring teachers in front of more than 11,000 students in the past school year, officials said Wednesday.

Under the new rules, teachers will spend a full year in the classroom as college seniors, well over the semester or so that was previously required.

The change sparked controversy for months, and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved the move in October on a vote of 6-5, and despite opposition from Gov. John Bel Edwards.

State Superintendent of Education John White gave an update on the program Wednesday during a joint meeting of BESE and the state Board of Regents. White was a key proponent of the overhaul while some regents officials and others were skeptical, especially on how to finance the changes.

A total of 230 undergraduate teacher candidates were placed in classrooms across 18 school districts for the 2016-17 school year, according to the state Department of Education.

Those districts teamed with colleges or other providers in launching the year-long residencies.

The push, which began with pilot projects in 2014, stemmed from complaints from college graduates that they were ill-prepared for the classroom.

White told the joint meeting that Louisiana is something of a trailblazer in how future teachers are being prepared for their job. "For a state our size this is unprecedented," he said. 

White said only South Dakota has launched anything similar.

BESE Vice President Holly Boffy, who lives in Youngsville, said state officials are getting inquiries from educators in other states interested in the revamped teacher training.

Under the change, aspiring teachers spend one school year in the classroom under the guidance of a veteran educator. Teacher candidates are paid $2,000 for the year and mentors $1,000. During the past school year, 228 mentor teachers assisted 230 undergraduate teachers and served 11,250 students, according to department figures.

Keith Courville, executive director of the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana, praised the early results.

"We have heard nothing but positive things about this program from teachers and students," Courville said. "This is a model for states."

Opponents last year included the Louisiana School Boards Association, Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Louisiana Association of Superintendents, Louisiana Association of Principals and Louisiana Association of Educators.

Southeastern Louisiana University, which has one of the state's largest teacher training programs, plans to more than double the number of students enrolled in the residency program for the 2017-18 school year.

A total of 46 students are expected to work in five school districts, up from 17 in two districts in the previous school year.

BESE previously awarded $2 million to finance the initial changes.

On Wednesday the panel approved a $2.2 million grant to assist providers.

That money will focus on teacher preparation in rural areas and increasing the number of certified special education teachers.

"Schools in rural parishes struggle to attract new graduates," White said in a statement.

The latest round includes partnerships between colleges and universities and the Ascension, West Baton Rouge and St. Charles school districts, among others.

White has said the program will cost $7.5 million for the first three years and that funding sources have been identified.

Critics argued that costs of the overhaul make it risky, especially amid recurring state budget problems.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.