The education field that new teachers are entering is much different than it was just a few years ago due to the pandemic. School district leaders are grappling with the best way to prepare, support, and sustain a pipeline of teachers. At The Learning Accelerator, we’ve had a first-row seat at watching Lindsay Unified School District (LUSD) implement a grow-your-own teacher residency program. From our research with LUSD, we’ve identified three key components that contribute to a successful teacher residency program: leveraging partnerships; providing rigorous, experiential, equity-focused training; and providing ongoing support.
Teacher residency programs are a systems-level approach to creating a much-needed pipeline of teachers who are
- prepared with knowledge to be able to address students’ learning needs and
- equipped with practical application skills.
Provide a Helpful Transition for New Educators
Similar to medical residencies that place new doctors in a highly focused, in-depth, clinical setting while working alongside experienced doctors, teacher residencies allow new teachers to partner with a highly skilled mentor teacher to learn classroom instructional skills and district-specific connections to learning.
According to the National Center for Teacher Residencies, these programs “increase teacher diversity, effectiveness, and retention.” Essentially, teacher residency programs ease the transition from course work to the real world and are a win-win situation for both the resident and the school district. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona supports teacher residency programs, stating that districts “should increase their partnerships with educator preparation programs to support teaching residencies in schools and use teaching candidates to support educators already in the classroom.”
We learned about three major components that make a teacher residency program successful, based on data we collected from LUSD.
1. Leverage Partnerships
Leveraging partnerships by using a codesigned implementation process is vital to a rich, robust, and mission-aligned program. During a focus group session with LUSD school leaders, we learned that partnering with residency programs experts was paramount to the development and ultimate launch of the district’s program. The district sought out partners that understood and assisted them with maintaining the integrity of their innovative hiring model, leading them to choose Alder Graduate School of Education and Marshall Teacher Residency, two organizations with vast amounts of expertise and resources in the industry.
The district wanted to maintain control of the hiring process, mentor matching, and resident placement within the program. Their partners honored their needs while also providing greater clarity around their hiring model and added their own level of expertise in the areas of financial models, contract development, teacher union compliance, program evaluation, training development, and financial development. LUSD described their partners as “good active listeners that understand how to customize appropriately for the district.”
2. Prepare Residents With Rigorous, Experiential, Equity-Focused Training
The success of a teacher residency program is deeply embedded in the quality of its training. Through quality training, teacher residency programs establish a culture of teacher preparation and set a high bar for teacher effectiveness. Rigor, experiential learning, and equity are the hallmarks of teacher residency programs. Through rigorous, experiential training, teachers can achieve deeper learning experiences that challenge them to understand content rather than memorize it, while also obtaining knowledge in a real-world setting. Likewise, residency programs with high-quality training set an elite precedent within the district’s surrounding communities and convey the message that the district endeavors to provide high-quality education and meet the needs of all students.
It’s important for residency program training to be rigorous so that residents have a meaningful experience that is applicable to their work. Further, residents should feel challenged as they extend their knowledge around instructional practices and strategies through experiential training that increases their competencies, skills, and knowledge. Finally, but certainly not least, it is important for equity to be the framework of all training to ensure that all students can receive instruction that is equitable, engaging, and growth oriented.
Through our interactions with LUSD, we learned that their residency program upholds rigor, experiential learning, and equity as valuable tenets for preparing residents. Residents shared that the residency program met their instructional training needs: They enjoyed opportunities to dive into research, share ideas for meeting student needs, and have time to share celebrations and concerns. They also shared that they received tangible instructional strategies specific to the LUSD personalized learning/performance-based system, reflection time, and opportunities to collaborate during group discussions while also solving problems collectively.
3. Provide Ongoing Support
Learning content, meeting the needs of students, and facing daily challenges requires ongoing support. Providing ongoing support for novice teachers can help reduce feelings of isolation and ultimate attrition. At LUSD, mentors are matched with residents to provide guidance, support, and feedback as well as assist residents with learning school culture. School leaders, teacher mentors, and residents all shared that establishing strong relationships was an important factor in supporting residents’ health and abilities.
Specifically, residents commented that mentoring and coaching sessions with their mentors played an integral role in establishing authentic relationships. Residents also perceived that they received strong support and relationship building with the residency program director as evidenced by their survey response of “agree to strongly agree that the program director was supportive by listening to their problems, visited classrooms regularly, responded promptly to calls and emails, and effectively met seminar objectives of helping them feel their head, heart, and hands were nurtured.”
Some residents attributed some of their success in interacting with students and implementing instructional strategies to their authentic relationships with teacher mentors. Residents shared that their mentors created a sense of community and made them feel valued, appreciated, and supported, speaking to the power of ongoing support through mentorship.
Teacher residencies create needed pipelines of teachers who are both prepared and supported in their instructional development. Using a grow-your-own approach, districts have the unique opportunity to pave the way for a stronger, more supported, and more prepared teaching force.