school bus stock

Nearly 1 of 3 college seniors statewide who plan to be teachers took part in year-long classroom residencies during the past school year, officials said.

The aspiring teachers are part of the first wave in Louisiana's plan to overhaul the way educators are prepared and to address concerns many were ill-prepared for their initial jobs.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which got an update on the overhaul Tuesday, narrowly approved the new rules in October 2016.

The key to the overhaul is a requirement that college seniors spend a year in the classroom working with a veteran mentor to experience a school year unfold from start to finish.

It replaces the traditional method in which college seniors spent a limited number of weeks student teaching, usually during the semester before graduation.

Under residencies, college seniors work with veteran teachers on testing, instruction and other duties. The students are paid $2,000 per year. Mentors get $1,000.

Most colleges and universities and other providers will be required to have the new training methods in place for the 2018-19 school year.

All preparation programs also will be required to offer competency-based curriculum aimed at ensuring teacher candidates are prepared for the classroom.

During the 2017-18 school year, 395 undergraduates took part in the year-long residencies, which is 32 percent of undergraduates planning to enter the profession, and up from 18 percent the previous school year.

Those college seniors worked with about 16,000 students, according to a report for BESE outlined by Hannah Dietsch, assistant state superintendent of education for talent. A total of 470 veteran teachers worked with the college students.

By 2020 the state is expected to have about 2,500 teacher mentors.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

Twice daily we'll send you the day's biggest headlines. Sign up today.

Dietsch said many schools have increased the number of seniors working in residencies regardless of the state's timeline.

A total of $8.3 million has been allocated to school systems to help finance the overhaul, including what students and mentors are paid.

Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, told BESE her group backs the program. But Meaux said the issue is how alternative certification providers, which offer nontraditional teacher training paths, will mentor aspiring teachers.

She also said mentors should be able to convey to the teacher candidates how they will be evaluated on annual state job reviews. "One of the most valuable things is the knowledge of what the evaluation requires so you will hit that mark," Meaux said.

Alternative certification allows teacher candidates who already have an undergraduate degree to earn a certificate in 12-18 months through a fast-track program offered by universities or independent groups.

White, in response to Meaux's comments, said how private providers will ensure teacher mentoring is a valid question.

He said about half of those entering the profession did so through alternative certification.

"That is not going away," White said.

Details on how alternative certification teachers will be mentored are still being hammered out.

White said the biggest gap in teacher skills is between first-year teachers and others.

Louisiana is one of just two states that will require teachers to spend a year in the classroom to meet teaching requirements.

The other one is South Dakota.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.