Teacher residency programs follow the long-standing medical residency model, which pairs medical students with senior clinicians who serve as mentors and supervisors in a hospital or clinical setting. While the student’s time in medical school is spent absorbing a broad range of medical knowledge, the residency allows for supervised, hands-on, in-depth training in a specific branch of medicine.
Teacher residency programs follow the same template. They pair bachelor’s degree holders with mentor teachers in active classrooms for year-long residencies, where residents gain classroom experience while pursuing their master’s degree at nights and on the weekends. This relatively new method of teacher preparation and training is demonstrating strong and promising benefits for student teachers, their mentors, and the students in their classrooms.
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 can be the case in traditional teaching training programs)—allows student teachers to log as many as 1,400 hours of classroom time, gaining valuable practical experience to draw upon as they continue their careers.
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. Residents earn a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) or a similar graduate degree and prepare for teacher certification exams.
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 after their residency is complete. Many programs provide stipends, scholarships, and other forms of financial support.
Teacher shortages have beset underserved school districts across the US for decades. The federal No Child Left Behind legislation of 2001 allowed new approaches to be implemented to address the problem, opening the door for residencies. However, most teacher residency programs sprang up after the passage of the federal Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, which provided direct funding.
Teacher residencies offer some undeniable benefits. Traditional teacher training programs average two (full-time) or more years (if done part-time) to complete. Residencies can be completed in one year, providing a quicker and more effective way to prepare and place qualified teachers into classrooms.
They’ve also proven more effective at teacher retention. According to a white paper by the Learning Policy Institute, 20 to 30 percent of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years. The attrition rate balloons to 50 percent or higher in high-poverty schools and in high-need subject areas, like those residents teach. Even so, “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 percent in the same district after three years and 70–80 percent after five years.”
Another Learning Policy Institute policy brief on teacher residencies outlines the benefits for schools, mainly that the model “fosters tight partnerships between local school districts and teacher preparation programs. Residencies recruit teachers to meet district needs—usually in shortage fields. Then they rigorously prepare them, and keep them in the district.” These programs also help recruit diverse teachers who reflect diverse student populations, creating a more balanced and culturally responsive learning environment for everyone.
A final considerable benefit: teacher residency programs typically culiminate in a master’s degree. Many school districts offer an automatic salary increase to teachers holding relevant master’s degrees.
There are many ways to enter the teaching profession with only a bachelor’s degree. Some are relatively quick. If you don’t have the time or the money to complete a two-year, full-time Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), you may want to look into completing a teacher residency program instead.
But obtaining your MAT faster isn’t the only persuasive reason to choose this course of study. By design, these year-long apprenticeships help prepare aspiring teachers to work in high-need schools looking both to hire and retain staff. The classroom experience you gain in a residency helps to custom fit you for jobs in that district. You’ll gradually assume increased responsibilities during the school year, applying the concepts and coursework you learn through your master’s-level study in real time.
Several top schools offer online master’s degrees in teaching for the convenience of students who would prefer not to, or can’t, attend classes on campus. Online teacher residency programs deliver their master’s coursework online; the residency component is still fulfilled in person in a live classroom.
NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development offers online classes with in-person placments in New York City; Albany; San Francisco; Palm Beach County, Florida; Danbury, Connecticut; and Washington, DC. Teacher residents in the program enjoy “support from NYU Steinhardt faculty, a cohort of peers, a teaching mentor, a residency director, and residency site school leadership.” Financial aid and scholarships supplement teaching salaries or stipends to help make the program more affordable. Students finish in the summer with a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), ready to apply for certification at the elementary or secondary level.
Teacher residency programs are relatively new, but a growing number of universities are offering them . Many are developing online and hybrid models. The strength of these programs is the flexibility they offer prospective teachers and the impact they can have on underserved school systems and the children they serve.
Purdue offers a fully online, STEM-based teacher residency program called the Indy STEM teacher residency. A partnership between Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) and Purdue University. ISTEM “aims to strengthen the educational outcomes of students in one of the largest urban school districts in Indiana by preparing culturally competent, highly qualified teachers who will elevate student achievement in middle and high school science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”
The University at Buffalo offers a hybrid program with the goal of being able “to recruit strong, economically and racially diverse candidates; prepare candidates successfully, diminishing the first-year learning curve for new teachers; ensure strong, qualified candidates for high-need positions and hard-to-staff schools; and retain teachers in the profession, reducing turnover and providing stability.”
Finally, there’s the previously mentioned residency program offered by NYU.
The benefits to online learning in residency programs are all about the timing. You’ll spend all day during the school year working in the classroom with your mentor, applying your knowledge and skills in real time. Classwork and progress is tracked by university faculty in online meetings with cohorts in the evenings and on weekends, maximizing the time you spend on-site teaching and learning in the classroom.
There are financial benefits too. Pursuing a traditional master’s degree in education can cost about $55,000 on average, but many teacher residency programs pay you while you’re learning your craft. Grants, stipends and loans also are available, and employment is guaranteed with placement programs ar the school districts where you’ve been training.
As you search for the program that is right for you, consider the following.
Residencies typically last one calendar year, beginning and ending in the summer months. The start of your residency in early summer will involve planning the curriculum alongside your mentor and then beginning your hands-on, full-time teaching experience, with classroom responsibilities increasing as the year moves along.
The application process and eligibility for each program is different; most programs require a bachelor’s degree and a GPA of at least a 3.0. In addition, you’ll need to provide transcripts, up to three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement expressing your interest in teaching and how the residency program will help facilitate your career goals.
Curriculum focuses on the transition to teaching. It typically includes coursework in pedagogy, multicultural education, teaching theory and practice. The majority of a resident’s time is spent on the teaching internship and time in the classroom.
Your interest and specialization is up to you. Programs may focus on such content areas s STEM, music, social studies, special education—or on different levels of teaching, such as early childhood education, elementary education, or middle and high school.
There are many financial assistance opportunities offered by teacher residency programs. Most offer scholarships, stipends, grants, tuition discounts, and other financial incentives. For instance, the Indy STEM teacher residency provides a $46,500 stipend in the form of a forgivable loan (you must commit to teaching in the Indianapolis public school system for three years for the loan to be forgiven). In the NYU Teacher Residency program, all students receive scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $18,000 (the average amount awarded is $13,000). Partnering school districts sometimes provide stipends as well.
The goal of these teacher residency programs is to train motivated, dedicated and qualified individuals to work as teachers in low-income, high-need school districts. Your commitment in return is to stay in that school system and contribute to the positive learning experiences and growth of your students.
But the experience may inspire you to go further—to progress into leadership positions in school or district administration, where you can continue to help solve the challenges these underserved schools face and give students the opportunity to succeed.
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