It may sound surprising, considering that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists California as among the highest-paying states for teachers, but the Golden State has a teacher shortage. There were fewer teachers in California in 2019 than before the recession in 2008. The state has been forced to hire lesser-qualified teachers, and is having an especially difficult time attracting teachers of color and those trained to teach at-risk students.
Teacher residency programs offer an attractive way for aspiring educators, especially career-changers, to quickly earn their Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) or similar degree and gain in-classroom teaching experience alongside a mentor teacher. These programs often attract more people of color and have a positive impact in areas most deeply impacted by shortages. As an added incentive, many residencies come with robust financial aid—often in the form of scholarships and stipends.
You may be wondering how do I enter a teacher residency program in California? This article covers what it takes, including:
Residency programs are typically offered through a university or educational nonprofit (like the Alder Graduate School of Education) that is partnering with a school or school district. Instead of delaying in-class teaching until the end of—or after—graduate school, as traditional teacher training programs do, teaching residents spend a residency year in the classroom under the tutelage of a mentor teacher, while simultaneously doing their MAT coursework at night and on weekends. In many residencies, students work in high-need public or charter schools, and commit to working as a full-time, salaried teacher for a set period of time after their residency at the school is complete.
Because residencies frequently attract career changers, applicants typically have bachelor’s degrees in a variety of areas other than education.
Teacher residency programs have several unique benefits. Financially, many come with robust financial support in the form of stipends and/or scholarships. Another advantage is that you’ll be better prepared to teach in the classroom when you start your career. According to New York University numbers, students in traditional teacher preparation programs typically log only around 100 hours of classroom time. Student teachers in residencies can easily accumulate 1,000 hours of real-life teaching experience in the classroom.
Early research suggests that teacher residencies increase the diversity of people entering this profession and what they are specializing in; improve teacher retention rates; produce effective teachers; and more.
A 2020 annual report by the National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR) found that over 60% of teaching residents identify as people of color, which is 40% higher than the number of new teachers of color entering the field from traditional education degree programs. The organization also notes that more than 20% of residents are specializing in STEM subjects, which is helping to address the dearth of STEM teachers at schools across the country.
One of the most useful aspects of teacher residency programs is their high teacher retention rates. Residents are more likely to stay at their schools than graduates from traditional programs—it’s often a program requirement. The NCTR found that 86% of student teachers in residency programs stayed with their host schools in the three years following graduation.
The long-term impact of higher retention rates is teachers who stick around continue to become more effective teachers. According to the Learning Policy Institute, “teaching experience is positively associated with student achievement gains throughout a teacher’s career.” While improvement is “most steep in teachers’ initial years,” it continues “as teachers reach the second, and often third, decades of their careers.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, It turns out that pairing a student teacher with a veteran educator is a recipe for classroom success. Researchers at Glass Frog Solutions found that having a teaching resident in the room increased a host teacher’s effectiveness score (TES). So, not only do student teachers learn the skills they need to go on to become great teachers, but their very presence as a mentee positively impacts everyone else in the classroom during the residency as well.
California is a large state, meaning the program you choose often depends more on where you live than a ranking. Be sure to check to make sure your chosen program is from an accredited institution. Five California programs are:
Bakersfield offers four potential tracks in partnership with the Kern school district: urban, rural, high school, and general program. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree to apply to this program, which boasts a 95 percent teacher retention rate over its three and a half years of existence. Students earn a Master of Arts in Teaching and can qualify for up to $35,000 in living stipends, plus scholarships and supplemental income. Exact numbers can depend on the program.
Fresno offers five teacher residency programs—each has a unique focus and structure. For instance, those who pursue a residency in the Clovis school district complete a three-semester special education program that comes with a $13,000 stipend and three-year commitment to continue teaching in the district. The Sanger residency program offers a laptop and tablet instead of a stipend, but does not have a post-graduation teaching requirement; it lasts two semesters and results in a multiple subject teaching credential.
In this program, you’ll be partnered with a school in one of three districts: Monterey, Santa Cruz, or San Benito. Students spend the first school year completing their master’s program and earning an initial credential in either an elementary or secondary education track. They spend the second in a teaching position, which comes with a $27,000 stipend.
The teacher retention rate at the University of San Francisco’s program is fantastic—89 percent since the program started in 2010. There are multiple tracks, but each student earns a Master of Arts in Teaching. You can earn a single or multiple-subject credential with the option to add a Bilingual Authorization Credential. Program benefits include tuition remission, healthcare, and a $15,000 living stipend.
USC partners with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). This MAT program comes with a $42,000 school scholarship and a $20,000 LAUSD stipend. Together they equal the value of tuition. Graduates teach K-12 in underserved schools. They can decide to earn an Education Specialist Credential and Bilingual Authorization for Spanish Certificate.
California-based teacher residency programs have requirements similar to other educator preparation programs across the country. Most programs ask for standardized test scores, two letters of recommendation, personal essays, an interview, and official transcripts. Individual schools can have unique application processes, and there are a couple of California-specific requirements to account for.
Each program on this list offers a master’s degree, meaning you need a bachelor’s degree to enter. Because residency programs are for new teachers, often career changers, their bachelor’s degree will likely be in another subject.
It’s usually better not to have an educational background. Monterey Bay is one of the few programs that allows those with previous teaching experience to enter the program. However, Fresno State requires that students have 45 hours of field experience working in a school before applying. Be sure to carefully read all the information your prospective school provides before applying.
In California, you may need to pass state-specific tests to enter into a program. For instance, Monterey Bay requires a subject-specific California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET). You must also complete the broad California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST). Instead of the CBEST, you may take the CSET multiple subjects and writing exams, or complete the proper California State University placement exams.
Though what you take ultimately depends on your school, coursework combines pedagogy and educational theory. Additionally, you’ll take specialization-specific classes (if you’re intending to become a special education teacher, for example). Residents who pursue elementary education complete coursework that prepares them to teach multiple subjects. For secondary education tracks, you’ll likely focus on a single subject.
University of San Francisco students in a Secondary Education Concentration with a Single Subject Bilingual Authorization Credential complete track-specific courses like Academic Literacy, Teaching Adolescents, and a bilingual authorization course. This is in addition to core coursework with titles like Teaching, Learning and Technology, Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, and Health Education.
Residency programs can help you earn a master’s degree quicker than usual—in one year instead of two. However, that’s not always the case. Monterey Bay’s program, which includes an MA and credential, lasts two years. Fresno State has programs of varying lengths.
According to the NCTR “Teacher residency programs typically require that candidates commit to teach in the school for a minimum of three years.” If you don’t uphold this commitment, you may need to pay back your stipend or scholarship.
In addition to preparing you to become an effective teacher in a relatively short-period, teacher residency programs, in most instances, lead directly to salaried teaching jobs—they immediately launch your teaching career. While credentialing programs do not lead to roles outside the classroom, there’s nothing stopping you from returning to school to complete a different degree program later and transitioning to a related role like school administration or school leadership.
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