Tag Archives: teacher residencies

Reinforcing Diversity Through Teacher Residency Programs

This post is part of a week-long series about educator and leader pipelines. Read the rest of the series here.

Minority students make up a little more than half of the K-12 student population, but less than 20 percent of teachers are people of color. So students of color are rarely taught by people who look like them, and reasons range from poor recruitment and retention strategies to pipelines clogged by discrimination (as my colleague Katrina wrote). 

Research has demonstrated over and over again that teacher diversity is vital to enhancing school experiences and academic outcomes for students of color, especially in high-need school districts. Increasing teacher diversity has positive effects beyond improving student test scores. For instance, teachers of color are more effective role models for students of color and are less likely to implement exclusionary discipline measures.

Teacher preparation programs at institutions of higher education lose potential candidates of color at multiple points. First off, undergraduate students are already less diverse than high school students. Secondly, a significant majority of education majors and teacher candidates enrolled in teacher preparation programs are white. During the 2012-13 school year, 25 percent of teacher candidates in preparation programs housed in institutions of higher education identified as individuals of color. In comparison, individuals of color made up 37 percent of all students in those institutions regardless of major.

One solution, which my colleague Ashley LiBetti and I discussed in our recent publication, is teacher residency programs. These alternatives to traditional programs have shown to improve teacher diversity. In the National Center for Teacher Residencies network, more than 45 percent of teacher candidates identify as people of color. And nearly 50 percent of Boston Teacher Residency candidates are teachers of color, compared to 38 percent of all teachers in Boston Public Schools.

Residencies also target post-secondary graduates of color to ensure that they stay in the profession. Since almost half of students of color are first-generation college students, many do not have the same set of life skills and social capital as their peers who come from middle-to-high income backgrounds. Residency programs provide needed support for these teacher candidates of color as they navigate the teaching profession. For instance, the Southeast Asian Teacher Licensure (SEAT) program in St. Paul, MN primarily recruits immigrant paraprofessionals into their program, many of whom identify as English language learners. SEAT provides academic and personal advising, English language tutoring, technical assistance, and financial support to help teacher residents prepare for teacher licensure exams and successfully complete the program.

Residencies also increase diversity by intentionally recruiting teacher candidates of color who come from the local communities. For example, Nashville Teacher Residency works with community-based organizations to diversify its teacher candidate pipeline. These organizations work with specific ethnic groups that make up a significant proportion of the student population. Several programs also recruit individuals of color from high school alumni and paraprofessional networks to build a pipeline of candidates who bring local perspectives.

Without targeted and direct intervention, the number of teachers of color will continue to lag. While a large-scale approach is necessary, residency programs show promise in addressing this lack of diversity.

Teacher Residencies: Less Risk and More Reward?

Prospective teachers have many choices when it comes to their preparation, and the right decision isn’t always obvious. Depending on state requirements, college undergraduate students have the option of entering a traditional Bachelor’s education program at an institution of higher education. College graduates or career changers can choose to enter a traditional Master’s program or a variety of alternative certification programs such as Teach For America or TNTP, all of which vary in student teaching requirements, cost and financial incentives, and support and mentorship opportunities.

Increasingly, prospective teachers have yet another option at their fingertips, and one that holds promise: teacher residency programs. Residencies differ from other preparation programs as teacher residents spend the bulk of their training working in classrooms. In a report launched this week, Ashley LiBetti and I examine the appeals of residency programs and offer recommendations for addressing the policy and research gaps that inhibit the growth of these promising options.

Here are three simple takeaways from our report:

Teacher residency programs mitigate the risks associated with traditional preparation pathways. A 2016 Bellwether analysis found that teacher candidates spend $24,250 over 1,512 hours on average for traditional teacher training. Candidates invest significant time and money without truly knowing what life as a teacher looks like, since most traditional programs only require 10 to 15 weeks of in-classroom service requirements during the degree program. That’s a huge risk, particularly for career changers. Teacher residencies reduce that risk by being less expensive and exposing prospective teachers to the challenges and opportunities of teaching in a classroom right from the start.

From as early as day one, residents are placed in a classroom with an experienced mentor teacher and are deeply integrated into the daily life of a teacher of record. Some programs even have an additional trial period before starting the residency year. Nashville Teacher Residency, for example, requires that incoming residents take part in summer sessions prior to the beginning of the school year. The trial periods act as auditions for both the program and the resident.

Residencies provide support and mentorship more consistently than other traditional preparation and alternative certification programs. In our research, we found that teacher residents receive significant mentorship and support during their residency year, more frequently than traditional preparation programs. Many programs also provide specialized training to serve high-need communities. For instance, the Kern Rural Teacher Residency in Bakersfield, California provides additional workshops and conferences specifically to train residents on how to work with English language learners. Furthermore, residencies frequently provide induction, which involves systemic supports and guidance for novice teachers in the first few years of their career. Continue reading