March 2, 2020
Report Details Louisiana’s Groundbreaking Work to Empower Teachers

As John White prepares to step down as Louisiana state superintendent, Chiefs for Change, a bipartisan network of state and district education leaders, today issued a report explaining how White and the Louisiana Department of Education empower teachers with high-quality curriculum aligned to meaningful professional development. The report highlights Louisiana’s comprehensive academic strategy, developed by and for teachers, which is contributing to measurable gains in student performance.

White, a member of the Chiefs for Change Board of Directors, and his team launched Louisiana Believes, a multi-year effort that gives teachers a significant role in developing and implementing academic standards; identifying and adopting high-quality instructional materials and assessments; and executing job-embedded professional learning and coaching.

As part of the Louisiana Believes strategy, the state has created several nationally recognized initiatives that provide Louisiana educators with a voice in what and how they teach:

  • Louisiana Instructional Materials Review: The state’s educator-led process for reviewing and rating instructional materials.
  • Teacher Leader Summit: The state’s marquee professional development event that brings together more than 6,500 educators each year for learning and collaboration.
  • Believe and Prepare: The state’s educator preparation program that requires aspiring teachers to undergo a year-long residency prior to graduation under the tutelage of a Mentor Teacher.
  • Content Leaders: The state’s pipeline of school-based, certified curriculum-experts.

The report shows that even though there is room to grow, the state has seen a steady increase in student performance on every measure in grades 3 through 12 since the implementation of Louisiana Believes.

  • Louisiana led the nation for improvement on the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress in eighth-grade math and is second for eighth-grade reading growth.
  • More students graduated in 2018 than ever before, with a graduation rate of 81.4 percent. This represents an increase of more than 5,000 students since 2012, far exceeding the nation’s growth over the same time period.
  • In 2018, the state posted a record-high college enrollment rate, with more than 25,000 pursuing a postsecondary education.

“These successes are a direct result of a coherent academic strategy, led by Louisiana educators, that is centered on increasing access to quality early childhood education; academic alignment of standards, curricula, assessments, and professional development in every classroom; quality preparation and advancement opportunities for teachers and leaders; and clear pathways to college and career for every graduate,” said Assistant State Superintendent Jessica Baghian, a member of the Chiefs for Change Future Chiefs leadership development program.

The report also outlines how Louisiana educators’ involvement in these initiatives has had a significant impact on their instructional practice. In a 2016 study, the RAND Corporation found that Louisiana’s educators were far more likely to be using, and have a better understanding of, instructional materials aligned to state standards than their peers in other states. Anecdotal data also suggests that these initiatives are developing a strong talent pipeline from classroom teacher to district leader, improving teacher retention, and increasing teacher satisfaction.

“The most promising thing that has happened here [Louisiana] is that teachers are embracing change, teachers are owning change, and teachers are the ones who are pulling the change,” White said.

Superintendent of New Orleans Public Schools and Chiefs for Change member Henderson Lewis believes the state’s academic strategy has facilitated a talent continuum in his district for local educators to receive professional development and advance in their careers. “This professional learning not only helps individual teachers hone their craft, it creates opportunities for our most talented educators to gain the knowledge, skills, and coaching experience they need to support other teachers within their school buildings,” Lewis said.

The report offers several recommendations for other states interested in implementing a similar teacher-led academic strategy:

  • Engage teachers to create and implement a unified vision of instructional quality;
  • Invest in structures to support teacher leadership; and
  • Establish a meaningful leadership pipeline.

More details on these recommendations, and the specifics of Louisiana’s academic strategy, are included in the report.

About Chiefs for Change

Chiefs for Change is a nonprofit, bipartisan network of diverse state and district education chiefs dedicated to preparing all students for today’s world and tomorrow’s through deeply committed leadership. Chiefs for Change advocates for policies and practices that are making a difference today for students, and builds a pipeline of talented, diverse Future Chiefs ready to lead major school systems.