Teacher Residencies Can Transform the National Teaching Workforce
OPINION: Building high-quality teacher residency programs is the right strategy for growing and supporting an effective, diverse teacher workforce; now is the time for us to provide much more of the right kind of support to the field to do this challenging but rewarding work.
The call to action to improve our teacher workforce pipeline is now, and teacher residencies, a model of teacher preparation that includes intensive clinical experiences alongside a skilled teacher mentor, are an important part of the answer. Research suggests that teacher residency programs produce a more effective and diverse workforce of educators who remain in the profession.
When you look at how far the teacher residency movement has come, it’s astounding. Fifteen years ago, the National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR) started as a network of three programs in three different states; now, there are just over 100 teacher residency programs operating across the country. Equally interesting about the growth of the movement are the supporting policy and funding shifts. Teacher residency programs are an allowable use of funds through ESSA; there are a variety of ways that ESSER funds can be used to support teacher residencies; elements of high-quality residency models are evident in the federal TQP and SEED competition priorities; and numerous states have set out to define, fund, and support the development of teacher residency programs through policy and practice. And perhaps most notably, the Secretary of Education has issued a call to action for SEAs, LEAs, and IHEs to use ESSER funds for, among other things, growing teacher residencies and establishing partnerships between PreK-12 school systems and higher education to create a diverse teacher pipeline.
Building high-quality, sustainable teacher residency programs is arduous, but worthwhile work. So, while the calls to action are there and the research to tell us that teacher residencies are a key approach to training a diverse, effective teaching workforce that stays, the question remains, “How do we increase the number of these high-quality programs in order to have substantial impact on the field?” Indeed, Secretary Cardona recently stated, “Today, as the nation shifts from school reopening to school recovery, and as we work to reimagine schools equitably, we must likewise move from dreamers to doers.” These calls to action and compendiums of research are falling on superintendents, school leaders, university faculty, state education agency staff, and teachers, all of whom have taken on more responsibility and increasingly more complex workloads since the pandemic began. Residencies are a small fraction of the way teachers are trained right now. That needs to grow. How do we take the policy advancements, the calls to action, the research support (all of which still needs to keep moving and continuously improve), and drive toward changes across the system and ways of doing work? The National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR) and its Network of program partners have numerous established and promising examples of work underway right now to build, implement, continuously improve, and sustain high-quality teacher residency programs. But we all have to do more to extend the reach of support to the field. Here are four ideas that have the potential to immediately respond to supporting the important work of teacher residencies:
- Disseminate examples, profile, and talk about what it actually looks like to develop PreK-12 and higher education partnerships focused on teacher training programs that include meaningful clinical practice, such as WestEd’s Building Strong Partnerships to Improve Clinically Oriented Teacher Preparation or Bank Street’s Going Further Together: Building Ownership and Engagement to Support High Quality Teacher Preparation.
- Provide meaningful support to the field to do the work in a high-quality way – meet the field where they’re at with targeted technical assistance, useful tools and resources, and turnkey templates:
- NCTR’s Levers for Equitable Teacher Residencies reflect 8 "standards" rooted in research and outcomes that are essential for building and sustaining high-quality teacher residency programs that are focused on recruiting, preparing, and retaining effective day-one ready teachers, particularly teachers of color.
- The California Teacher Residency Lab is a state approach to developing tools and resources and providing technical assistance focused on building a system of teacher residencies that transforms the teacher workforce across the state.
- ERS developed a “Teacher Residency Packet” for the Louisiana Department of Education to help school systems design their own teacher residency programs.
- Operate networks, communities of practice, and collaboratives that busy and consumed educators, administrators, faculty members, and agency teams can opt into in order to learn from others about how to do this work and begin planning and development in a safe, knowledgeable space where they can try out early thinking. Today, NCTR operates a Network of 49 teacher residency programs across the country that collaborate regularly to: develop curriculum, establish partnerships, design the residency year experience, discuss financial sustainability, and determine evidence-based approaches for identifying and training mentors. The federal comprehensive center and regional educational laboratory systems are also in prime positions to design and host networks, communities of practice, and collaboratives focused on developing and implementing high-quality teacher residency programs.
- Conduct research on the teacher residency pathway so the field can continue to learn what works, for whom, and in what contexts. For example, the Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) at Columbia is currently conducting a preliminary study on NCTR’s Black Educators Initiative (BEI) to learn about best practices for recruiting, developing, and retaining Black educators through teacher residencies.
If we believe in the call to action and the supporting research and we want to grow these pathways at scale, we have to collectively support the field of people doing this hard work every day.