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May 25, 2006

Dean Luke Thomas honored by governor, legislature and regents

The deans of Louisiana's 21 public and private colleges of education, including ULM Dean Luke Thomas, were recognized today by Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, the Louisiana Legislature and the Board of Regents for accomplishing a feat most states have found elusive ­ the successful redesign of teacher preparation and educational leadership programs at all Louisiana universities.

These efforts have resulted in Louisiana's recognition as a national leader in the improvement of teacher preparation and educational leadership programs.

"These accomplishments would not have occurred without the collaborative partnerships that have existed among the governor, Board of Regents, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Louisiana Department of Education, the university system boards, all public and private universities, and the partnering districts," said Commissioner of Higher Education Joseph Savoie. "Other states are envious of the unique partnerships that exist in our state."

Dean Thomas said the recognition reflected the efforts of ULM's faculty, staff, administration and local communities.

"The honor of the recognition goes to those faculty and staff who have given so much of their time and effort to the redesign of our teacher preparation and educational leadership programs. We have been fortunate to have strong support from the administration, College of Education and Human Development faculty and staff, colleagues across the campus, our K-12 partners and the community." Thomas said. "We look forward to the challenge of preparing high quality teachers and leaders for Louisiana." 

Over the past four years, faculty from universities and local school districts across Louisiana have been actively engaged in the redesign of all regular and alternate teacher preparation programs for grades PK-12.

National experts initially evaluated these new programs, and additional improvements were made to the programs before they were approved for implementation by July 1, 2003.

District and university partners have now redesigned all graduate programs in teacher education and educational leadership. National consultants have also evaluated these programs, and all approved programs will be implemented on July 1, 2006.

"The redesign of these programs has taken a tremendous amount of time and effort," said Jeanne Burns, Associate Commissioner for Teacher Education Initiatives for the Board of Regents and Governor. "However, we have now seen an increase in the number of new teachers completing teacher preparation programs in Louisiana from 2,336 in 2001-02 to 2,664 in 2003-04.

In addition, the number of teachers completing our teacher preparation programs meeting all certification requirements at the point of completion have increased from 89 percent in 1999-2000 to 99 percent in 2003-2004. Our numbers have increased and our quality has improved."

All redesigned programs are now aligned with Louisiana's K-12 content standards, Louisiana's teacher standards, and Louisiana's educational leadership standards, and better address the needs of teachers, leaders and students.

"It is critical that new teachers and new principals understand the new expectations in our PK-12 schools in Louisiana and leave their university programs prepared to help students achieve at higher levels," said State Superintendent Cecil Picard. "Our new certification requirements and the university redesign efforts are helping us achieve that goal."

Many of the changes that have been made to the programs are a result of the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission, said Frances Henry, member of the Board of Regents and co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Commission. "We are often asked to help other states understand why our commission has been so successful when other commissions are struggling."

It is crucial to work together, said Glenny Lee Buquet, member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Commission.

"We all understand the importance of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Regents aligning our efforts and working with the governor to implement the commission's recommendations," said Buquet. "This has helped us to secure funds from the U.S. Department of Education and The Wallace Foundation to support many of the redesign activities involving the universities and districts."

Today's recognition events also acknowledge Louisiana's growing national reputation as a leader in teacher education improvement.

Recent examples of such national recognition include:

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