Tamara Azar and Tabitha Grossman
National Center for Teacher Residencies
October 1, 2021
Multiple research studies over the last few years have looked at effective teacher preparation and retention strategies, with a general consensus that there is considerable room for improvement. The teacher residency model offers a way to do better. In the residency model, individuals learning to teach, called residents, typically spend a school year learning in an expert mentor teacher’s classroom while simultaneously completing community-based, practice-oriented, clinically aligned coursework. This approach directly responds to the ongoing challenges of preparing teachers to work in particular contexts, diversifies the teacher workforce, and advances equity in public schooling.
Substantial research also suggests that the classroom teacher is the primary in-school factor influencing student achievement. Effective schooling experiences—in the hands of excellent teachers—can change children’s life trajectories. The shared conclusion of a range of research reports is that in the 21st century, we will increasingly rely on our public school system to prepare individuals to compete in a complex global economy. Given the central role that teachers play in this process, the teacher preparation field must consider that polls and surveys bear out the finding that many teachers enter the profession feeling unprepared for the rigor and realities of the classroom:
- A 2015 Teach Plus poll found that most practicing teachers felt unprepared to meet the demands of the classroom and serve all their students in their first year of teaching. In total, 77 percent of teachers felt that they were not fully prepared to be highly effective and meet the needs of many of their students.
- In a 2018 Educators for Excellence survey of teachers nationwide, only 31 percent of educators reported being “very well” prepared to provide rigorous academic instruction upon completion of their teacher preparation program.
Residencies put student learning at the center of the preparation experience, with intense clinical work and intentional alignment among the residency, school district, and institutions of higher education (IHEs). This coherence results in a substantial return on investment, which manifests in three distinct ways:
- More effective new teachers;
- A more diverse pipeline into the teaching profession; and
- Higher teacher retention rates.