Teacher residencies—in which a candidate undergoes a yearlong, paid classroom apprenticeship with ongoing mentoring—have proven to be an effective way to bring more teachers of color into the profession, and get them to stay longer.
Yet many minority-serving institutions don’t have these programs in place, despite being key players in preparing teachers of color. The National Center for Teacher Residencies is one group working to change that.
The center recently received a $1.9 million, three-year federal grant to provide technical and logistical support to develop and scale up 14 teacher residency programs, 10 of which are at historically Black colleges and universities. The universities are in varying phases of this work—some are still considering the idea, some are ready to launch a program within the next year, and others have programs in place already.
The grant is part of a $60 million investment from the U.S. Department of Education to address teacher shortages and support the educator workforce. Enrollment in teacher-preparation programs has declined significantly over the past decade, and experts have raised serious concerns about the strength of the teacher pipeline.
In particular, teachers of color are perennially in high demand, as they make up just 20 percent of the workforce despite educating a student body that’s more than half students of color.
Teacher residency programs can reduce the barriers into the profession for candidates of color, since the residents are paid for their student-teaching, and many residency programs also subsidize tuition and fees. Residents also receive frequent support and coaching, and advocates say the model produces teachers who feel confident and ready on day one.
“This pathway really creates a lot of racially and culturally diverse teachers,” said Anthony Graham, the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Winston-Salem State University, a historically Black institution in North Carolina. “It makes sense for an HBCU to support and launch and execute a teacher residency model, given all the benefits.”
Yet the cost to run a residency model is substantial, he said. It can cost around $50,000 a year per resident if they’re paid a stipend of around $35,000, he said.
“Historically Black universities don’t have those types of resources,” Graham said.
Minority-serving institutions have been chronically underfunded by state legislatures for decades, and they serve students from families who often aren’t able to pay full tuition. A 2021 analysis by Brookings Institution using federal data found that HBCUs spend just two-thirds the amount that colleges in general spend per student.
“Sustainability is the challenge,” Graham said. “Once the [grant] dollars subside, how do we keep the operation moving?”
Community partnerships can lead to long-term success
With the federal grant, the National Center for Teacher Residencies will help Winston-Salem State build a new residency program that should be running within a year.
Already, Winston-Salem State has partnered with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school district that will train the residents—and pay part of their salaries, to offset the cost for the university. In return, the residents must commit to teaching there for at least three years after graduation.
The residency program, which will be at the master’s degree level, will focus on training teachers in elementary education, special education, and science, technology, engineering, and math to meet the districts’ needs.
- An estimated 100 teacher residency programs in the nation
- 46 teacher residency programs in the National Council for Teacher Residencies’ network
- 57 percent of teacher residents in the NCTR network identify as a person of color
- 38 percent of mentors in the NCTR network identify as a person of color
- 89 percent of teachers who graduated from a residency program in the NCTR network stay in the teaching field for at least three years
Graham said he hopes that once the program is running, its success will spur future investment from the state legislature and local businesses. After all, he said, keeping high-quality teachers in the area is a boon to economic development.
That’s why it’s critical for teacher residency models to be developed in partnership with school districts, so they’re mutually beneficial for the K-12 sector, the college or university, and the teacher candidates themselves, said Cassandra Herring, the president and chief executive officer of the Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity, which supports educator-preparation programs at minority-serving institutions.
Otherwise, “this is not a situation where if we build it, they will come,” she said.
Herring said some residency models struggle to find enough residents because the stipend isn’t high enough to alleviate the need for a part-time job or because the program isn’t flexible enough to accommodate residents’ life circumstances.
For example, some residencies are built to service a single school, and residents might not live close by or have reliable transportation to get there. Other residents might struggle balancing teaching with their college coursework and classes.
“Those considerations are hugely important in designing a really strong residency program,” Herring said. “Our concern—what keeps us up at night—is that we’re building quality preparation models that can be sustained, that can persist.”
Growing the model
To help with the sustainability question, the federal grant will also go toward growing five existing teacher residencies that are in NCTR’s network, including one at Delaware State University, a historically Black university in Dover.
Delaware State’s residency model started in 2020, with just two students placed at one school. This year, the program has expanded to nine students spread across four school districts.
Ultimately, the goal is for Delaware State to have a residency track within its undergraduate teacher-preparation program, so that students can choose between the traditional semester-long student teaching experience or the yearlong residency, said Crystal Timmons, the director of the office of clinical and field experiences. Delaware State typically graduates about 40 teachers from that program a year, and Timmons estimates that about half would choose the residency model.
Each student receives a $25,000 stipend for their yearlong residency, which is funded by the state. But part of the goal with the federal grant is exploring other ways to fund and maintain the program aside from relying on state funding, Timmons said.
“We know at some point, the money, for whatever reason, might not be available,” Timmons said. “What does it mean [then] if that’s the only avenue of funding?”
Timmons said Delaware State officials are also considering tweaking their residency model to help address teacher shortages in local schools sooner. For instance, residents could take summer courses and graduate a semester earlier so they can go out in the field sooner.
“We’re just trying to find some out-of-the box ways that we wouldn’t normally do in a traditional program, but the times are not traditional,” Timmons said.
Tabitha Grossman, the chief external relations officer at the NCTR, who oversees state and federal policy work, said the federal grant will also help residency programs bring in new candidates of color, including Latino and Indigenous prospective educators.
“We have never wanted to arrogantly assume that what works for a Black teacher works for a Latino teacher,” Grossman said, adding that this work will let them try new strategies to see which ones work for other populations.
Supporting teacher candidates financially and socially
Paying teacher candidates for their work in classrooms is a hallmark of the residency model that sets it apart from traditional teacher-preparation programs. Because of the workload of student teaching, candidates are often encouraged to not work an additional job, but some—especially those from marginalized backgrounds—"just don’t have a choice,” Timmons said.
“They’re at the school from 8 to 3:30, and some are going to jobs from 4:30 to 9,” she said. “It’s very draining, and it’s also very noticeable for a lot of them in their work just because they don’t have the time they need to put into it.”
But when they’re receiving a salary for their time teaching, candidates can spend less time working elsewhere, she said.
Another part of the “secret sauce” of residency programs is the coaching, Graham said.
At Winston-Salem State, coaches help the residents with the technical parts of the job—lesson-planning, classroom management, and pedagogy. But they also help the residents navigate social, cultural, and political barriers that may come up, especially for teachers of color who work in predominately white schools and communities.
Graham said the coaches will work with the residents to proactively anticipate—and learn how to manage—different scenarios teachers of color often encounter in schools, including racial microaggressions from colleagues, biased assignments from administrators, or blatant racism.
Those interactions contribute to teachers of color leaving the profession at higher rates than their white peers, so having a foundation of support from the start is important, Graham said.
In general, teacher residencies have a heavy emphasis on culturally sustaining practices, Grossman said.
“This emphasis really changes the entire experience for candidates of color, particularly when the macro world is sending very different signals, [like] telling you what you can and can’t teach,” she said. Political pressures and restrictions on how teachers talk about race in the classroom have left many educators of color weary and considering the exit door, experts say.
Teachers of color may “experience the same racism in school as outside of it,” Grossman said. “Residencies focus on calling that out, acknowledging it, and helping residents deal with it.”
A version of this article appeared in the November 23, 2022 edition of Education Week as HBCUs to Scale Up Teacher Residency Programs