The recent announcement of $43 million in teacher-preparation grants by the U.S. Department of Education puts the first federal financing behind the burgeoning “residency” model of teacher training.
The agency awarded 28 grants, primarily to university-based partnerships, under a retooled federal program that supports teacher preparation.
The financing, announced Sept. 30, arrives as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who has emphasized teacher evaluation and compensation recently, prepares to turn his attention to the nation’s schools of education in several speeches this month.
James H. Shelton, an assistant deputy secretary, said in an interview that the grants support the Obama administration’s overall agenda for teacher quality. “We’re excited that [the partnerships] are stepping up to be thoughtful about how to use the data on student achievement to change their programs,” he said.
The department plans to make additional awards in early 2010 with the $100 million provided for the program in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The funding comes as a windfall for supporters of the teacher-residency approach, which stakes training on a yearlong clinical practicum for teacher-candidates. But because of the relative novelty of the model, the new grants’ effects on teacher retention and on student achievement will likely be tracked closely.
“One of the challenging things is that these grants are for five years, and residencies are very expensive,” said Ada Beth Cutler, the dean of the education school at Montclair State University, in New Jersey, which won a grant to begin a residency program in the Newark school district. “We have to prove together that this will have the projected outcome and will make a difference.”
Eye on Partnerships
Federal lawmakers overhauled the long-standing Teacher Quality Partnership grant program as part of the 2008 renewal of the Higher Education Act. The legislation consolidates three funding streams into a program that puts a heavier emphasis on student-teaching and requires colleges of education to work with local districts to address their specific teaching needs.
Millions of dollars will be doled out by the federal government to reform traditional teacher preparation and create teacher-residency programs. Grantees are to do either or both.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education
In particular, partnerships were encouraged to consider the residency model, which provides candidates with financial support during their residencies in exchange for commitments to teach in those communities for several years. All but nine of the funded grants include a residency component.
With its reduced coursework but extensive student-teaching, the residency model rests somewhere between traditional preparation pathways and alternative routes. The best-known examples are located in Boston, Chicago, and Denver, and the new grants represent a significant scaling-up.
“It’s a huge shift in the landscape, where you’re seeing universities adopt the work of nonprofit groups” that created the first residency programs just under a decade ago, said Anissa Listak, the managing director of Urban Teacher Residency United, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that crafts residency standards.
Supporters of the model say the grants could provide additional data about the approach, such as the ideal size of the residency cohort, an effective sequencing of coursework, and the model’s applicability in nonurban settings.
“I think there is a lot of good reason and good evidence to make us believe this is an effective model, ... but I think what’s up in the air is how far can you stretch the boundaries,” said Jane E. West, the vice president of government affairs for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, based in Washington. “We have a lot to learn here.”
Bard College, for instance, will use its grant to support a residency program in a combination charter school and education program it operates in rural Delano, Calif. Most residencies are located in large cities.
“There may be more potential for really changing over a community’s attitude toward education in ways that are productive for kids,” said Ric Campbell, the college’s dean of education.
A version of this article appeared in the October 14, 2009 edition of Education Week as Teacher ‘Residencies’ Get Federal Funding To Augment Training