Grant funds master teachers in St. John

Published 12:11 am Saturday, October 8, 2016

RESERVE — All 11 schools in the St. John the Baptist Parish Public School District will receive a master teacher.

That’s one of the immediate takeaways from a ballyhooed announcement this week from the School District, saying St. John is one of 12 Louisiana districts and schools benefiting from a $49 million grant awarded to the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching.

The five-year federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant is aimed at improving the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders and thereby increasing student achievement.

A rollout schedule and the local district’s portion of the funding were not immediately released.

Local public school leaders began stumping for the grant in mid-June when Superintendent Kevin George said the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching contacted him seeking to partner in pushing for a federal grant from the Teacher Incentive Fund.

During a town hall June 22 in Reserve helping explain the process, Patrice Pujol, president of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, said the Teacher Incentive Fund Grant is given by the U.S. Department of Education.

Pujol said NIET’s mission is to advance educator effectiveness in every classroom. There are systems and tools, Pujol said, NIET uses to help teachers and principals improve and refine their practices as they boost student achievement with individual students.

All 11 schools in the District will receive tools provided by NIET.

Every school will now receive a data management system for recording feedback from teacher evaluations to identify common areas that could benefit from professional development.

Training will be provided for those evaluating teachers and for the district’s leadership to ensure they are thinking strategically to improve collaborative meetings.

The grant also creates an incentive fund to reward teachers who work effectively.

George said collaboration between participating parishes and schools allows districts to focus on what works and implement those practices.

“We see tremendous value in working with other districts on this initiative,” he said. “This will enable us to learn from others and to demonstrate the impact across multiple communities. This grant will be a huge asset in funding our professional development activities for our school- and district-level instructional staff and will be a big boost toward us becoming an ‘A’ district.”

Among the practices the funds will support are the use of research-based teaching standards to guide classroom instruction, the development of school-based professional learning, creating teacher leadership opportunities, integrating performance measures into compensation systems and supporting new teachers to be effective on day one.

More specifically, the districts will adopt the NIET instructional rubric. The five-point system targets the behaviors that research has shown have the biggest effect on student achievement, according to St. John public  school officials.

In addition to St. John the Baptist Parish, grant partners include the parishes of DeSoto, East Feliciana, Madison, Orleans and Rapides as well as New Orleans charters Algiers Technology Academy, Eisenhower Academy, Landry-Walker High, McDonogh No. 32 Charter, Fischer Academy and Martin Behrman Academy.