Recruitment and retention challenges are once again leading to teacher shortages across the nation. Especially in urban and rural school districts, low salaries and poor working conditions often contribute to the difficulties of recruiting and keeping teachers, as can the challenges of the work itself. As a consequence, in many schools—especially those serving the most vulnerable populations—students often face a revolving door of teachers over the course of their school careers. Many of these teachers are underprepared for the work of teaching and learning.
Turnover is higher in districts that meet shortages by hiring teachers who have not completed an adequate preparation, as novices without training leave after their first year at more than twice the rate of those who have had student teaching and rigorous preparation. Similarly, teachers who do not receive mentoring and support in their first years leave teaching at much higher rates than those whose school or district provides such support. Under these circumstances, everyone loses: student achievement is undermined by high rates of teacher turnover and by teachers who are inadequately prepared for the challenges they face. Schools suffer from continual churn, undermining long-term improvement efforts. Districts pay the costs of both students’ underachievement and teachers’ high attrition.
Key Characteristics of Strong Residencies:
- Strong district/university partnerships
- Coursework about teaching and learning tightly integrated with clinical practice
- Full-year residency teaching alongside an expert mentor teacher
- High-ability, diverse candidates recruited to meet specific district hiring needs, typically in fields where there are shortages
- Financial support for residents in exchange for a three- to five-year teaching commitment
- Cohorts of residents placed in “teaching schools” that model good practices with diverse learners and are designed to help novices learn to teach
- Expert mentor teachers who co-teach with residents
- Ongoing mentoring and support for graduates
The Potential of Teacher Residencies
Newly emerging teacher residency programs seek to address these problems by offering an innovative approach to recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers for hard-to-staff schools. This report summarizes the features of these programs and research about their practices and outcomes.
In brief, these programs:
- Create a vehicle to recruit teachers for high-needs fields and locations;
- Offer recruits strong content and clinical preparation specifically for the kinds of schools in which they will teach;
- Connect new teachers to early career mentoring that will keep them in the profession; and
- Provide financial incentives that will keep teachers in the districts that have invested in them
Impact of Residencies
Research suggests that well-designed and well-implemented teacher residency models can create long-term benefits for districts, for schools, and ultimately and most importantly, for the students they serve. Key benefits include:
Recruitment: Research suggests that residencies bring greater gender and racial diversity into the teaching workforce. Across teacher residency programs nationally, 45% of residents in 2015–16 were people of color. This proportion is more than double the national average of teachers of color entering the field, which is 19%. In addition to attracting a more diverse workforce, residencies aim to staff high-need schools and subject areas. Nationally, 13% of residency graduates in 2015–16 taught in mathematics, science, or technology fields, and 32% taught English language learners and/or students with special needs.
Retention: National studies of teacher retention indicate that around 20–30% of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years, and that attrition is even higher (often reaching 50% or more) in high-poverty schools and in high-need subject areas, like the ones in which residents teach. Studies of teacher residency programs consistently point to the high retention rates of their graduates, even after several years in the profession, generally ranging from 80–90% in the same district after three years and 70–80% after five years.
Student Outcomes: Because most residency programs are still in their infancy, only a few studies have examined program impact on student achievement. Early studies, however, indicate that students of teachers who participated in a residency program outperform students of non-residency prepared teachers on select state assessments.
The teacher residency model holds much promise to address the issues of recruitment and retention in high-need districts and in subject area shortages. This model also has the potential to support systemic change and the building of the teaching profession, especially in the most challenging districts. Initial research is promising as to the impact residencies can have on increasing the diversity of the teaching force, improving retention of new teachers, and promoting gains in student learning. Residencies support the development of the profession by acknowledging that the complexity of teaching requires rigorous preparation in line with the high levels of skill and knowledge needed in the profession. Residencies also build professional capacity by providing professional learning and leadership opportunities for accomplished teachers in the field, as they support the growth and development of new teachers. These elements of strengthening the teaching profession can create long-term benefits for districts, schools, and, most importantly, the students they serve.
The Teacher Residency: An Innovative Model for Preparing Teachers by Roneeta Guha, Maria E. Hyler, and Linda Darling-Hammond is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Research in this area of work is funded in part by the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. Core operating support for the Learning Policy Institute is provided by the Ford Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Sandler Foundation.