Teacher residency programs are providing significant benefits to school districts, teacher residents, and the students they serve as teacher vacancies are on the rise.
A teacher residency is where a teacher candidate is paired with an experienced, highly effective mentor teacher for a full year of clinical training/co-teaching in a K-12 classroom. Residencies take place at the undergraduate and post-baccalaureate level. In some cases, residents receive a stipend during the year-long residency. It is estimated residency programs have increased by 75 percent over the past seven years.
Participating in a teacher residency program provides residents the following benefits:
- Teacher residents work directly with campus staff and are provided a variety of learning opportunities outside lectures and textbooks.
- Teacher residents are better equipped to enter their first year of teaching.
- Participation in a residency program helps reduce the turnover often seen within the first five years of a teacher’s career.
- Teacher residents are paid for their program participation allowing them to offset living expenses.
Benefits for school districts include the following:
- The residency program allows the district to better acclimate the teacher resident into the learning and social culture of the organization.
- Districts may use residents as substitutes, paraprofessionals, or tutors as part of their experience.
- Residency programs support district recruitment efforts including attracting a more diverse workforce.
- Accomplished teachers can build professional capacity through learning and leadership opportunities.
Student teaching has always been an important part of a future teacher’s preparation. Relationship building in a residency program differs because most programs are a minimum of one year in length and allow for a variety of experiences outside of the four classroom walls typically found in a student teaching assignment.
This experience may include working with a diverse student population. Direct contact with varying student populations may better prepare the resident for their future as a teacher. This diversity may include ethnicity, learning abilities, and socio-economic levels.
Making connections with a multitude of campus staff increases the future support for the resident if hired to teach at their residency campus. It provides a better understanding of the ins and outs of a campus and how staff work together to support student learning.
According to research, individuals participating in a residency program are more prepared to enter their own classroom and navigate first year challenges. A 2014 US Department of Education study analyzed nine teaching activities to determine preparedness from the resident and the mentor perspective. Mentors were more confident than residents in their preparation level for some activities, while residents were more confident than mentors in other activities, but all responses were within 10 percentage points.
Following are the teaching activities included in the analysis:
- Collaborate with other teachers or colleagues on curriculum, lesson planning, or student issues
- Teach the subject matter
- Plan instruction based on student data
- Use a variety of instructional methods
- Find resources to assist with issues/concerns
- Assess students
- Select and adapt curriculum and instructional materials
- Handle a range of classroom management or discipline situations
- Use technology in classroom instruction
For years, data indicates teachers leaving the profession within the first five years do so because they are ill-prepared or don’t feel supported in their role. Based on this information it is understandable why individuals participating in a teacher residency program are more likely to stay in the profession beyond the first five years.
A residency program provides more hands-on experiences, access to resources, and opportunities to develop a stronger support system.
Student teaching may be unattainable for students who cannot afford to complete the process because of the inability to work during their semester of student teaching. Teacher residencies have opened opportunities for education students to earn money while completing a clinical teaching experience.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is providing funding and resources to schools through the Texas COVID Learning Acceleration Supports (TCLAS). One initiative is the Residency Support Program. Through this model, a teacher resident is paired with an experienced, highly effective mentor teacher for a full year of clinical training/co-teaching in a K-12 classroom for a minimum of three days per week.
TCLAS requires school districts to partner with a vetted teacher residency program found on the TEA published list. Currently, 15 approved programs are supporting over 90 districts across Texas. Each district is eligible for $20,000 per resident, up to a maximum of 20 residents regardless of a district’s student enrollment. Some school districts with established residency programs may augment current compensation with TCLAS funding.
A full-year residency allows time for an individual to acclimate to the district culture. Opportunities available over the year for varying experience that may not necessarily be accessible to a one semester student teacher experience include the following:
- Meet the teacher
- Open house
- Holiday celebrations
- Pre-assessments and post-assessments
- Staff development
- Campus meetings
Effectively integrating residents into the campus environment strengthens their connection to the campus and supports the building of relationships with staff and students from the start to the finish of the school year. Consequently, student performance can be positively impacted by a residency program.
Additional campus support
School districts are struggling to fill teacher vacancies. Residencies can provide additional staff on hand to fill these voids. As mentioned, the TCLAS grant requires an individual to spend three days per week with a mentor teacher. On the remaining days the individual could be designated as a campus substitute, share an educational aide position with another resident, or serve as a part-time tutor. All these activities provide the resident with additional instructional opportunities.
Experienced teachers participating as mentors in residency programs can increase their knowledge and refine their leadership skills. Districts who develop teacher leaders through these opportunities are laying a stronger foundation for career advancements, continuous school improvement, and increased student success. Additionally, these experienced teachers, through engagement, are more likely to remain in the profession and in their district.
Many residency programs are being implemented across the state and may or may not be supported by funds available through TCLAS.
Some districts have established relationships with universities not found on the vetted list provided by TEA. Brazosport ISD is an example. The Brazosport ISD residency program began as a one semester offering but is transitioning into a full-year program developed in partnership with the Region 4 Education Service Center. The district works directly with Stephen F. Austin State University and some alternative certification programs to recruit potential residents. As a result of few residents living in the Brazosport area, local apartment complexes are providing housing at a reduced rate. The complexes often waive the application fee and deposit for the residents and allow a month-to-month lease. Brazosport ISD has sought funding support from organizations such as Houston Endowment and the Gates Foundation.
Ector County ISD and Midland ISD are participating in an innovative approach to staffing called Opportunity Culture. This initiative allows these districts to build complete career ladders for teachers to advance without leaving the classroom. It begins with a full-year, paid teacher residency. Ector County ISD residents are hired on an aide pay grade with a salary range of $127.36 to $177.60 per day for 187 days. The purpose of these paid residencies is to help strengthen the pipeline of highly trained teachers entering the profession through a partnership with the University of Texas Permian Basin.
The University of Texas at El Paso is working with local school districts to develop more teachers by providing a year-long, coach-intensive, paid student teacher experience called the Miner Teacher Residency. The goal of the program is to prepare high-quality teachers who are ready day one to meet the needs of their learners and provide a rigorous learning experience for all students.
Hays CISD recently approved $137,575 from their general budget for participation in the Texas Teachers of Tomorrow: Lighthouse Teacher Certification and Preparation Program to attract more teachers to the school district.
Richardson ISD and Uplift Education are participating in a first-of-its-kind teacher apprenticeship program offered by Dallas College. The first cohort will begin this fall, and the students in the program will earn $30,000 for the year-long residency. These students will serve as residents three days per week in their assigned classroom and will provide tutoring or substitute support one day per week.
Ultimately, a teacher residency program allows an individual ample time to understand what it takes to be an effective teacher. This model can address the shortcomings of the traditional student teaching experience while providing staffing flexibility for districts struggling to fill vacancies. Finding ways to sustain a residency program is key.
A recent study conducted by Bank Street called Simple Shifts: Paying Aspiring Teachers with Existing Resources provides sustainable sources of funds for teacher residency models.
Karen Dooley is a senior HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Karen an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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