Study: Teacher Residency Programs Improve Learning, Retention

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A new report has found that teacher residency programs show promise as a highly-effective solution for troubled schools.

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the study focuses on two residency programs, Aspire Teacher Residency operated by the Aspire Public Schools charter network, and Denver Teacher Residency, which is part of the Denver Public Schools system.

Teacher residencies are alternative methods of teacher preparation created to address the growing teacher shortages across the nation.  While graduates of traditional education programs commonly say that any classroom teaching experience they had came too late in their education, was too short, and was not well-integrated in their coursework, the residency programs offer a year of apprenticeship as well as time spent on related coursework.

“Training for both the resident and the mentor is closely linked to what is happening in the classroom, with the focus always on improving outcomes for students.”

At the end of the program, residents have earned 1,400 hours of experience, where traditional education program graduates accumulate between 250 to 500 hours.  This extended experience allows residents to witness an entire school year in the district where they will then work.

Districts also win, as they have a constant stream of new hires that they know are well trained on current curricula in use in their district.  In addition, residents have been proven to have a very low rate of attrition once hired as full time teachers.  “The UTRU network has a three-year retention rate of 87%, and at five years it is 82%.”

Of the 54 principals surveyed who had hosted residents during the 2012-2013 school year, 100% said residency graduates were more effective than the average new teacher in five key areas: classroom instruction, data use, establishing a learning environment in the classroom, cultural responsiveness, and professionalism and leadership.

The program offers principals “the ability to really test to see if they’re somebody you would want to have on your staff,” Julie Murgel, principal of a Denver elementary school that hosts residents said. “Last year I didn’t have to spend a lot of time going through a traditional recruitment and interviewing process. We knew people right in this building that we’ve been watching very closely.”

According to the report, residency programs offer students five keys to success.  A rigorous recruitment process allows the programs to assess candidates for certain characteristics known to produce strong outcomes in students.  Relevant and rigorous coursework provides candidates with experience necessary for today’s schools.  A coaching and feedback system offers an engaging classroom experience.  The evaluation system focuses on continuous improvement.

The host school also must possess certain characteristics, including a collaborative culture, effective teaching, and a growth mindset.

The programs are being used across the nation as a model for improving upon teacher preparation since the first teacher residency program launched in 2001.

Teacher residency programs respond to the hiring needs of individual schools by offering a full year of apprenticeship in the classroom in conjunction with academic classes at a local college for new teachers.  Career advancement is also offered for veteran teachers.

Established in 2007, Urban Teacher Residency United (UTRU) was created in an effort to support, develop and maintain teacher residency programs across the nation.

“Because every day counts for every child, it is not just an advantage but an imperative to do all we can to develop a highly capable cadre of committed new teachers able to hit the ground running, to ensure that students are never solely the responsibility of teachers who still have on their training wheels.”