Residencies are a key tool to diversifying the nation’s teacher force
As Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona begins the difficult work of rebuilding our nation’s schools, teacher residency programs should be a vital tool in his toolbox to help fulfill the educational equity goals that President Biden and Vice President Harris laid out for their administration.
Biden has pledged to support more innovative approaches to recruiting teachers of color, including working with and investing in historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs) to recruit and prepare teachers. Teacher residencies are a proven, effective model to recruiting, preparing and retaining an effective and diverse pipeline of teachers who are ready on day one to teach the country’s highest-need students and improve academic outcomes for all students, regardless of where they live or go to school.
Think about many of the reasons the medical residency model has shown to be successful — the rigor, the length of time and the mentoring. Building on that approach, teacher residency programs pair a rigorous full-year classroom apprenticeship alongside an effective teacher-mentor in a high-need classroom with masters-level education content. The results have shown a higher retention rate in high-need school districts than other new teachers and increased student achievement for students of both the residents and the mentor teachers.
Teacher residences have also proven to be a pipeline for teachers who reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. Thirty-seven percent of all teacher residents are Black, compared to 7 percent of the entire teaching field, and 29 percent of all residents are Hispanic or Latinx, compared to 9 percent of the entire teaching field. Currently, HBCUs, MSIs and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and MSIs, collectively, award only 11 percent of the nation’s bachelor’s degrees in education but nearly 50 percent of the nation’s African American and Hispanic teachers with bachelor’s degrees come from HBCUs and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) respectively. It is time for federal policies and investments to change the faces leading our classrooms and our schools.
The government has a responsibility to ensure that HBCUs and MSIs have a strong pathway to teaching. As a candidate, Biden promised to provide funding to improve teacher preparation programs at MSIs. Using current and new federal grant programs to prioritize funding for HBCUs and MSIs is critical, and mechanisms must be put in place to ensure those schools have a fair shot of being awarded that critical funding. However, the government also has a responsibility to ensure that those teacher preparation programs that are funded have a record of recruiting, training and retaining highly effective teachers of color, and teacher residency programs across the country have done so. As the Department of Education (DOE) considers how to build strong teacher preparation programs at these institutions, we urge them to prioritize the teacher residency model and use their bully pulpit and their investments to ensure that happens.
The administration must also continue fulfilling its responsibility to diversify our nation’s teacher workforce after those teachers are trained. Ensuring students of color, who disproportionately graduate with high levels of student debt, can go into teaching and still support themselves and their families can be done by taking steps to ensure that teaching remains a viable profession for those students to enter and stay in. Expanding teacher loan forgiveness and including teacher residents, and allowing work-study funds to be used for a residency year teaching in a low-income school, are two concrete ways to provide support.
Biden and Harris must be commended for recognizing the benefits to our students and schools, demonstrated in numerous research studies, of an effective, diverse teacher workforce. Now the hard work begins and we remind Cardona that teacher residency programs provide him with a strong foundation to build on.
Anissa Listak is the founder and CEO of the National Center for Teacher Residencies. NCTR has helped to develop more than 50 residency programs, all serving students of color and low income students.