Like many states, Connecticut is experiencing a public school teacher shortage due to COVID-19-related health concerns, and the toll of contending with the challenges and stressors of teaching in pandemic conditions. According to the Manchester, CT Journal Inquirer, "Since January 2020, more than 1,500 teachers have retired from Connecticut schools, and more than 800 filed for retirement for July 2021, according to the Connecticut Teachers Retirement Board."
An equally dire development is the decline in student teachers graduating from teacher training programs in Connecticut and entering the field. A recent report from The Rockefeller Institute noted that, "The number of graduates from teacher education programs in Connecticut fell in recent years, from 1,991 in the academic year 2009-10, to 1,394 in 2015-16, a 30% decline in just six years. Enrollment in teacher education programs dropped even more steeply, from 8,215 in 2009-10 to 2,827 in 2015-16, a 66% decrease, which may augur further declines in graduates."
So, the pressure is on in Connecticut to ramp up the influx of new, competent, and effective teachers being hired by public schools across the state—and quickly. While traditional teacher education programs typically take two to three years to complete, teacher residency programs usually can be completed within a year, and produce new teachers equipped with graduate degrees and teacher certifications, who have real-world classroom experience and are prepared to successfully enter the teaching profession.
Teacher training programs are an alternate route to a teaching career and are modelled after medical residency programs. Instead of delaying teaching in-person toward the end of—or after—graduate school, teaching residents spend a whole academic year in the classroom under the guidance of a mentor teacher. Working in the school for a full year—instead of a limited number of hours or weeks (as is often the case in traditional teaching training programs)—allows student teachers to log over 1,000 hours of classroom time, gaining valuable practical experience to draw upon when they start their teaching career.
Residencies consist of either a full or half-day teaching in the classroom—with coursework completed at night and on weekends. Student teachers apply the lessons learned through their master's degree coursework, while receiving feedback from their mentor teachers throughout the year. When linked to a university, students earn a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) or a similar graduate education degree and their teaching certificate.
In many residency programs, students work in high-need public or charter schools, and commit to working as a salaried teacher for a set period of time after their residency at the school is complete.
In addition to the teacher shortages mentioned above, Connecticut public school systems have reported that prior to 2017, 42% of enrolled students were children of color, while only 8% of educators were teachers of color (which reflects national trends). This racial disparity and lack of representation in the classroom led the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) to partner with the Connecticut State Department of Education and Governor Ned Lamont in 2019 and make a commitment to increase "the racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of Connecticut’s teaching workforce."
Research has revealed that the presence of teachers of color in the classroom significantly benefits students of color. For instance, a study titled "The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers" released by the National Bureau of Economic Research (and reported by US News & World Report) revealed that, "black students who are exposed to one black teacher by third grade were 13 percent more likely to enroll in college. Those who had two black teachers were 32 percent more likely to enroll in college." Research by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics indicated that "having just one black teacher in elementary school significantly increases the chances that low-income black students graduate high school and consider attending college—and, for poor black boys, it decreases the risk of dropping out by nearly 40 percent."
As well, a 2018 Learning Policy Institute study titled "Diversifying the Teaching Profession: How to Recruit and Retain Teachers of Color" by Desiree Carver-Thomas found that: "(1) Teachers of color boost the academic performance of students of color, including improved reading and math test scores, improved graduation rates, and increases in aspirations to attend college. (2) Students of color and White students report having positive perceptions of their teachers of color, including feeling cared for and academically challenged. (3) Greater diversity of teachers may mitigate feelings of isolation, frustration, and fatigue that can contribute to individual teachers of color leaving the profession when they feel they are alone."
So, Connecticut’s teacher residency programs are not only focused on quickly and effectively training new teachers, but also recruiting and retaining educators of color. The Connecticut Teacher Residency Program seeks out recent college graduates interested in teaching to participate in an 18-month teaching residency, where they work alongside mentor teachers in the classroom setting, while completing coursework that will earn them their Connecticut teacher certification and lead to a full-time teaching job. There are residency opportunities available in partner districts throughout Connecticut, including New Haven, Hartford, and Norwich.
It should be stressed that student teachers in the Connecticut Teacher Residency Program do not earn a Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT). So if that is your goal, you should seek out a teacher residency program through a college or university (more on that below).
Sacred Heart University, in partnership with the Bridgeport public schools, offers a teacher residency program where "graduates receive their Master of Arts in Teaching Bridgeport Teacher Residency Program with initial Connecticut state teaching certificate with an endorsement in elementary (1-6) or secondary in a content area such as math, history, world language, English or science (7-12) or music (PreK-12)." Students in this program also receive a waiver for 30 credits (out of 48) toward their MAT degree and teaching certificate, and are guaranteed employment in the Bridgeport school system for three years after successfully completing the teacher residency program.
Even though the school is not located in the state, NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development offers a 30 credit path to a Master of Arts in Teaching in partnership with the Danbury public schools that includes an $18,000 stipend for teaching during the school year, while you earn your master's degree. The NYU program also offers a half-day teaching residency, but it does not include a tuition subsidy and stipend like the full-day teaching residency does.
Most programs will require a bachelor's degree and an undergraduate GPA of at least a 3.0. You also may be required to complete an application and submit your undergraduate and any graduate program transcripts, references and letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose outlining your interest in teaching and the residency program.
Sacred Heart also requires that applicants take the Praxis Core Academic Skills exam or submit SAT or ACT scores (to identify any remedial instruction that an applicant may need)—and that they submit documentation that they have completed 100 hours of child-related services.
NYU has specific undergraduate credit requirements, depending on the degree you are pursuing and subject area you intend to specialize in (Inclusive Childhood Education and Secondary Education; English, math, science, social studies, special education).
Typically, teacher residencies last one full school year, beginning with a summer planning session and ending with the wrap-up of the academic year. During that time, candidates work alongside mentor teachers taking on increasing responsibility in the classroom while they complete their graduate studies and certification requirements at night and on the weekends. Usually, residents commit to a full-time teaching position as a salaried professional for 3-5 years in the school district upon completion of the program (for the Sacred Heart residency, it’s three years; for NYU, it’s two).
According to Salary.com, the average salary for a public school teacher in Connecticut is $64,611, with a range between $56,406 and $74,590. Special education teachers earn an average of $62,491, while STEM teachers in the state make the most in Norwalk at $53,939, and the least in New Britain at $42,000.
Of course, one of the advantages of a teacher residency program is guaranteed employment after the successful completion of the residency. Down the line, there also are so many career possibilities for an experienced educator with an MAT, including taking on a more administrative role at the school or district level. The skills you learn in order to become a teacher are valued in any industry, and will follow you far beyond the classroom.
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