Urban teacher residencies

4 Mar

One of the huge issues in educating ALL children is how to attract high quality teachers to high needs areas and to retain those teachers. One program designed to address that issue is the “Urban Teacher Residency Model.” Barnett Barry and Diana Montgomery of the Center for Teaching Quality along with Jon Snyder of Bank Street College wrote an interesting 2008 paper, Urban Teacher Residency Models and Institutions of Higher Education: Implications for Teacher Preparation:

In brief, UTRs recruit teaching talent aggressively, with the supply and demand needs of local districts in mind. They also insist on extensive preparation, whereby recruits are paid a stipend while learning to teach in a full-year residency, under the watchful eye of expert K-12 teachers. Because the Residents are not fully responsible for teaching children, they have more quality time to take relevant pedagogical coursework ―wrapped around‖ their intense student teaching experience. While both AUSL and BTR are relatively new programs, early studies on their graduates’ effectiveness and their high retention rates of 90 to 95 percent suggest these models hold great promise for preparing and supporting teachers in high-needs urban schools.

We believe the time is now for the teacher education community to embrace UTRs —supporting the development of them while also using them to improve their current programs. The struggles of both traditional and alternative pathways to certification are well known. For example, many traditional university-based programs are challenged by:

Difficulty in attracting high academic achievers and teacher candidates of color;

Too few opportunities for prospective teachers to be taught by exemplary classroom teachers;

Failure to meet shortage area needs in subjects such as math, science, and special education, as well as the need for English Language Learners teachers;

Limited resources and structures to provide induction support for their graduates in a systematic way once they begin teaching; and

Lack of accountability for the effectiveness of their graduates.

On the other hand, alternate pathways, which often are touted for their ability to recruit high academic achieving candidates and to prepare teachers for specific districts, face challenges as well.

These include:

An abbreviated curriculum that leaves too few opportunities to learn how to teach diverse learners;

Insufficient clinical experiences prior to becoming the teacher of record;

Too few opportunities to learn content and how to teach it simultaneously;

An overemphasis on preparing teachers for a singular context (e.g., a particular district)

or a limited, prescriptive curriculum; and

Lack of accountability for the effectiveness of their graduates.

In fact, in a survey of both ―prominent‖ alternative certification recruits — including Teach for America, the New Teacher Project, and Troops to Teachers — and traditionally prepared novices, several stark findings have surfaced:

84 percent of traditional recruits rated their preparation in managing classrooms as excellent or good, compared to only 60 percent of the alternative certification recruits; 71 percent of traditional recruits rated their preparation in helping struggling students as excellent or good, compared to only 38 percent of the alternative certification recruits; and

77 percent of traditional recruits rated their preparation in providing individualized instruction to students as excellent or good, compared to only 49 percent of the alternative certification recruits. In addition, 34 percent of the alternative recruits who are teaching in high-needs schools reported they were planning to leave teaching within two years. In comparison, only 4 percent of the traditional recruits noted they were going to leave within the same time frame. These survey data do not suggest that traditional university-based preparation programs ―do teacher education right,‖ but for the most part, they are doing a better job than even the highly regarded

Teach for America program in getting new recruits ready for the immense challenges of teaching in high-needs schools. Researchers have shown teachers increase in effectiveness with teaching experience and high turnover among new recruits harms school improvement efforts. (footnotes omitted)

One of the key elements of “Urban Residency Models” is retention of teachers.

The Urban Teacher Residency Model:

Right now, roughly 50% of all urban public school teachers nationwide leave their positions in less than three years – not because they don’t want to teach, but because they’re not always ready.

By preparing a new kind of teacher inside the classroom – providing the practical learning, the hands-on experience and the support network they need to be effective right away – Urban Teacher Residency United (UTRU) and its local programs are building a real movement for education reform from the ground up.

Statistics show that 85% of all Residency graduates stay in their schools beyond those crucial first three years, reducing the high teacher turnover rates that cost districts millions and leave students in the dark.

Program Design

Giving Teachers the Tools to Make an Immediate Impact

It is an extensive focus on preparation that makes the Residency model different from any other program in education. From beginning to end, every aspect of the model is designed to provide teachers the knowledge, skills and disposition they need to make an immediate impact in the urban classroom — a difference every one of their students can feel.

Recruitment & Selection

Recruiting Residents

Through a highly selective recruitment process, Residencies attract a diverse group of talented college graduates, career changers and community members. This targeted effort is driven by the unique needs and goals of each school district partner. Special attention is paid to attracting teachers of color and teachers in high-need areas, such as math, science and special education.

Selecting Mentors

On a parallel path, Residencies select a cohort of experienced teachers within the district to be paired one-on-one with Residents for the duration of the school year. These expert mentors offer Residents a living, breathing model for success in the urban classroom. As the centerpiece of the Residency model, mentors receive ongoing support from the program to ensure the provision of time, resources and coaching skills necessary to lead an effective classroom apprenticeship.

The Residency Year

Residency programs offer a unique synthesis of theory and practice, combining a yearlong classroom apprenticeship with a carefully aligned sequence of master’s-level coursework. Residents receive a stipend for living expenses throughout their training year, and a subsidized master’s degree upon completion of the program.

Placement in Cohorts & Training Sites

Residents train as part of a cohort — a peer group that provides ongoing support and collaborative learning throughout the Residency year and beyond. At the beginning of the school year, groups of Residents are placed in high-need, high-functioning public schools for their apprenticeship experience. Residents also complete their coursework as a cohort.

A Yearlong Classroom Apprenticeship

Residents spend the full academic year in an urban public school, developing under the guidance of an experienced mentor teacher. Using a variety of coaching and conversation protocols, mentors provide valuable insight into effective teaching methodology, helping Residents develop the knowledge, skills and habits of mind that come from years of experience in the urban classroom. Over the course of the year, Residents move from a collaborative, co-teaching role in the classroom to an increasingly demanding, lead-teaching role.

Linking Theory to Practice

In addition to their hands-on work in the classroom, Residents engage in master’s-level education coursework designed to inform and enrich the apprenticeship experience. This deep blend of theory and practice makes the Residency model a unique route into teaching, helping participants draw meaningful connections between their daily classroom work and the latest in education theory and research.


Residency graduates commit to serving their district for at least three years after the completion of their apprenticeship. In return, they receive immediate assistance with job placement in one of the district’s schools, as well as access to an exemplary onsite induction program — one-on-one consultation that includes classroom observation and targeted feedback throughout their first two years of solo teaching.

Residency programs also boast an active alumni network — a group that values ongoing training and collaboration, and serves as an invaluable resource as graduates pursue further professional development. Many Residents go on to become mentors, principals and senior administrators in their schools, a benefit their continued commitment earns them.


See, MSNBC video: Why Do Good Teachers Leave? http://video.msnbc.msn.com/nightly-news/46622232/#46622232

Quality Standards for Effective Residencies

The UTRU Quality Standards identify, define and describe the six program elements essential to the design of a high-performing Urban Teacher Residency.

Quality Standards for Teacher Residency Programs (436KB)

Position Papers

These documents provide an in-depth look at the development and design of the Urban Teacher Residency model.

From the limited data available, it appears that “Urban Teacher Residencies” are a promising tool.


Urban Teacher Residencies: A Space for Hybrid Roles for Teachers http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_ahead/2011/10/urban_teacher_residencies_a_space_for_hybrid_roles_for_teachers.html

Urban Teacher Residencies http://www.teachingquality.org/utr

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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