Teacher residency programs

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Teacher residency programs are initiatives to recruit teachers to high-need schools, typically by offering short or open-ended commitments and an accelerated teacher certification process. In general, teacher residency programs are used to lower the barriers to and/or increase the incentives for individuals with special skills or non-traditional qualifications to enter the teaching profession. For example, if a school district lacked a sufficient number of individuals who were certified as mathematics and science teachers, it might partner with a teacher residency program to attract individuals who were not formally certified as a mathematics or science educator but who had at least a bachelor-level education in the subjects and had passed certain other examinations and/or had completed a more limited set of teacher certification courses. In other cases, a school district might face a shortage of multilingual teachers, and seek to lower the admission requirements to becoming a teacher for individuals who had such language skills by authorizing a teacher residency program. Many teacher residency programs are intended to function as a minimum commitment, and some school districts may allow teachers who complete a residency program to become a more formally certified teacher. Teacher residency programs may be run by the government or by a private organization, such as Teach for America or Teach for All. In other instances, teacher residency programs may be used to temporarily place existing teachers at other institutions for purposes of supplementing existing staff or sharing skills and expertise.



Conceptual Example

A State Department of Education notices that many schools in rural districts are struggling to recruit certified and effective science educators in their K-12 schools. In an effort to improve the number of educators who are well-versed in science and effective instructors, the Department of Education changes the requirements to be a teacher in the State to allow individuals who are participating in certified teacher residency programs. As part of the teacher residency programs, following their passage of an accelerated teacher training program and state examination, individuals from more urban environments who received at least a bachelor education in science but who lack teaching credentials are assigned to teach at rural schools for at least a two-year commitment. By lowering the barriers to becoming a science educator and partnering with a teacher residency program, the State Department of Education sees an increase in the number of science courses being taught within the state, a reduction in the student-teacher ratio in science courses, and an increase in student scores on state science assessments.

One of the teacher residency program participants is Carolyn, a mid-career biologist who sees advertisements to join a teacher residency program, which is seeking to recruit individuals with strong science backgrounds to teach in a nearby, poorly-resourced school district that lacks a sufficient number of certified and effective science instructors. Carolyn joined a teacher residency program and, by agreeing to teach in a more challenging, less well-resourced school environment, is able to receive her teaching certification on an accelerated basis. After two years as an effective instructor, she determines that she would like to remain in the teaching profession, is offered a full-time position, and is able to become a more traditionally-certified teacher under the state system, enabling her to qualify for pension benefits and join the labor union.



Tradeoffs of implementing this policy may include:

  1. Reduction in the general effectiveness of school instruction if residency program participants are not sufficiently trained or do not remain as teachers long enough to reach their maximum instructional potential.
  2. Reduction in the incentives for individuals to complete a post-secondary education in becoming a teacher if a residency program is perceived as an easier entry point with greater career flexibility.
  3. Increase in educator turnover and related costs if residency programs lead to shorter-term teacher commitments.
  4. Potential for greater unemployment among individuals with a teaching degree if competitive job placements are filled by non-traditionally educated individuals.
Compatibility Assessment

Compatibility Assessment.png

If answered yes, the following questions indicate superior conditions under which the policy is more likely to be appropriate:

  1. Does the school or district consistently face shortages of effective teachers, either overall or with respect to certain types of skills (such as language abilities or technical subject matter knowledge)?
  2. Is it difficult for the school or district to attract traditionally certified teachers in order to address the shortage through traditional recruitment channels?
  3. Do reliable, high-performing teacher residency programs exist that would be interested in placing teachers in the relevant schools with skills appropriate to fill the shortage?


Assuming that a jurisdiction has decided to adopt the policy, the following questions will need to be answered when determining how to implement this policy:

  1. Will teacher residency program (or programs) only be offered to current teachers, or will it make use of alternatively-certified teachers?
    1. Teach for America is an example of a teacher residency program provider for which most participants have not received traditional post-secondary education-focused degrees prior to their first teaching assignment.
  2. How will participation in a teacher residency program impact the credit teachers receive toward their original (if applicable) and in-residence retirement system?
    1. If a practicing teacher is interested in participating in a residency program outside of their current retirement system, absent other provisions or reciprocity agreements across districts, the teacher may be prolonging their eligibility for retirement by the duration of the residency program.
    2. If a transitioning professional does not otherwise meet the typical teacher requirements, the likelihood of their continuing to teach beyond the residency period, if allowed, will be significantly constrained by their ineligibility to participate in the retirement system.
  3. What limits, if any, will exist on the duration of residency programs?
    1. In certain jurisdictions, following an initial period of teaching experience (e.g., two years), allows a teacher residency program participant to apply for a more common certification and receive full benefits held by other institution and district teachers.
  4. What alternative eligibility requirements will exist, if less than the standard teacher certification requirements?
    1. In the U.S., each state typically has differing requirements with respect to an individual's certification to teach.
    2. For alternative teachers that do not possess standard teaching college degrees, requirements may include having completed a post-secondary field of study related to the courses they will be teaching, having achieved a minimum grade point average in their post-secondary studies, and having passed a formal exam to demonstrate appropriate teaching subject matter knowledge. [1]
  5. What schools will be eligible for receiving the teachers?
    1. Typically, teacher residency programs target high-needs schools and districts that face shortages of qualified or otherwise desirable teachers.
    2. Reasons that might be used to identify a school's eligibility could include: need for teachers who speak a particular second language; need for teachers of a particular gender to provide more adult role models of that gender; and need for teachers with culturally-relevant knowledge.
    3. Other areas of high-need often include teachers in early childhood education, mathematics, science and special education. [2]



  • Has adoption of: Common. Teacher Residency programs are commonly used, often in school districts or institutions that face a challenge in attracting a sufficient number of qualified teachers (e.g., due to local language barriers, being located in a rural area, or simply presenting a challenging classroom environment).
  • For education level(s): Secondary. Teacher residency programs typically occur in secondary institutions such as middle schools and high schools, in which a need for and shortage of qualified teachers may be most pronounced.




  • Advocates - Educational Choice. Assumption: Advocates for greater choice in education would support the right of educational institutions to rely on alternative teacher recruitment channels.
  • Advocates - Multilingual Education. Assumption: Advocates for multilingual education are likely to view teacher residency programs as one means through which schools could attract a higher number of multilingual teachers.
  • Advocates - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Assumption: Teacher residency programs are viewed as a means to increase the number of instructors with strong science, technology engineering and math backgrounds.
  • Constituent Groups - Parents and Parent Associations. Assumption: Parents view teacher residency programs as another channel through which their schools are able to attract the most effective set of educators with which to teach their children.
  • Constituent Groups - School Administrators and Leaders. Assumption: Teacher residency programs are viewed as an additional recruitment channel that school administrators and leaders may use to increase their ability to attract the most effective possible set of educators and fill teacher vacancies.
  • Providers - Teacher Residency Programs. Assumption: Organizations that administer teacher residency programs are inherently dependent on the use of teacher residency programs for their continued operation.


  • Labor Unions - Teachers. Assumption: School districts that rely on teacher residency programs reduce job placement and security-related advantages held by unionized teachers.




  • "Urban Teacher Residency Models and Institutes of Higher Education: Implications for Teacher Preparation". Center for Teaching Quality (2008). Assesses practices of Chicago's Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) and the Boston Teacher Residency (BTR) Program, in which teachers are aggressively recruited and provided with a stipend while receiving a full-year of in-depth training for high-needs urban schools. In general, the study supports the use of such programs and provides additional resources (e.g., case studies) for prospective adopters.
  • "Does Teacher Preparation Matter? Evidence about Teacher Certification, Teach for America, and Teacher Effectiveness". Darling-Hammond, Linda; Holtzman, Deborah J.; Gatlin, Su Jin; Heilig, Julian Vasquez. Education Policy Analysis Archives, v13 n42 Oct 2005. This study utilizes a large dataset a from Houston, Texas that links student characteristics and achievement with data about their teachers' certification status, experience, and degree levels from 1995-2002. In general, certified teachers are found to produce better student educational outcomes than uncertified teachers, including those attracted through teacher residency programs.
  • ["https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20134015/pdf/20134015.pdf The Effectiveness of Secondary Math Teachers from Teach For America and the Teaching Fellows Programs"]. U.S. Institute for Education Sciences (2013). This study found that Teach for America participants were more effective as teachers than comparable instructors not from residency programs, and that Teaching Fellows participants were neither more nor less effective than comparable instructors.


  • Clinically Oriented Teacher Preparation (COTP). National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR) (June 2015). NCTR partners with school districts, charter management organizations, institutions of higher education, not-for-profits and states to develop teacher residency programs as quality pipelines of effective and diverse new teachers. The purpose of this report is to provide examples of teacher preparation practices in the U.S., emphasizing practice in the preparation of teachers and a new teacher development approach that is more clinically-focused.
  1. Getting Certified." Teach For America Website. Accessed on May 29, 2016 at: https://www.teachforamerica.org/teach-with-tfa/your-training-and-support/getting-certified
  2. "What and Where You'll Teach". Teach For America Website. Accessed on May 29, 2016 at: https://www.teachforamerica.org/teach-with-tfa/what-and-where-youll-teach.
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