For over a century, American hospitals have employed residency programs to train fledgling physicians. Under the supervision of experienced doctors, residents learn to diagnose and treat patients, gradually earning more autonomy as they master their profession. Residencies provide new doctors with a gradual onramp to their medical careers, ensuring they receive sufficient guidance and support as they take on greater responsibilities.
Teacher residency programs are modeled on medical residencies. These year-long training regimens combine extensive supervised classroom experience with master’s-level coursework. Designed primarily to attract teachers to high-need subjects and locations while concurrently promoting greater diversity within the teaching profession, teacher residency programs produce master’s-level teachers qualified for state licensure in just over one year.
The teacher residency model
Teacher residency programs place trainees in full-day or half-day apprenticeships under experienced teachers. Residents work alongside a mentor teacher for an entire year. At the same time, they take evening classes in subjects that supplement and enhance their in-class training. Residents can receive stipends and tuition support as they complete their training. In return, school partners often require a commitment to continue teaching after the residency ends.
Teacher residency represents an alternative pathway to teaching for aspiring educators who already hold a bachelor’s degree. Unlike comparable teacher training and certification models, residents are not the teacher of record in their classrooms. Instead, they serve an internship while they earn their master’s.
Several features distinguish teacher residency programs from other teacher preparation processes.
Teacher residency programs partner with high-need districts or charters
Teacher residency programs arose in response to a critical teacher shortage. Through augmented training and greater incentives, teacher residency programs seek to mitigate the recruiting, training, and retention challenges understaffed, underperforming schools face. High-needs districts or charters partner with universities to operate these programs, empowering the districts to influence program admissions and priorities. To fill partner needs, many teacher residency academic programs focus on training teachers in mathematics, science, special education, social studies, and English as a second language.
Teacher residents receive one full year of training before leading their own classes
Studies show that new teachers who receive insufficient mentoring and support leave teaching more quickly than adequately supported instructors. Teacher residents complete a full year of supervised fieldwork before becoming teachers of record. In conjunction with academic training and the support provided by program faculty and staff, this prolonged apprenticeship provides residents a firm foundation upon which to build future success. It seems to work: A study of teacher residents in Shelby County Schools (Memphis, TN) indicated that they outperformed their non-resident peers in multiple critical metrics, including student test scores and student perception of teaching and learning.
Residents are placed in underserved schools
Teacher residents teach in an underserved school, both during their residency and for their subsequent commitment period. They serve students most in need of skilled, committed teachers. Because they remain in their residency schools for an extended period, they become part of the school community. Teacher residents report benefitting from a “huge network of support” among their “cohort and friends at school.” Julie Candia, a graduate of the NYU Teacher Residency Program, notes “the new perspective, information, and just caring – there are people here for me if I need help at any point.”
Residents may receive a stipend or salary
Depending on which residency they choose, teacher residents receive a stipend or a salary (and, in some cases, both) to defray education and living expenses during their residency year. The amount varies from one program to another. Any program that accepts federal grant money is obliged to provide “a living stipend or salary” (although the governing statute does not specify a minimum amount).
What to expect in a teacher residency program
Teacher residency programs operate under different school districts, charter organizations, and universities, so they vary from one to another. Some characteristics are common to all, however. Among them:
- Programs run for an entire year and sometimes a little longer; the NYU Teacher Residency Program starts at the beginning of the summer and ends at the end of the following summer
- Residency sites are underserved schools facing staff and teacher shortage and retention challenges
- Program curricula track closely with residents’ in-class experiences, enabling students to apply what they learn in their master’s classes to the classrooms they teach
- Programs incorporate mentoring, coaching, and structured feedback
- Residents take on increased teaching responsibilities as the school year progresses, under the supervision of an expert teacher
- Students tend to be knowledgeable, capable individuals who studied the discipline they plan to teach in college
- Students are more likely to be persons of color than are those entering teaching by alternative routes; a 2020 National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR) study reported that 62 percent of NCTR-partner residents were persons of color (compared to 22 percent of all new teachers nationally)
Why were teacher residencies created?
Teacher residencies arose as a potential solution to a web of challenges and concerns. Underserved schools sought a means to promote recruitment and retention, particularly among teachers of color, who are underrepresented in the profession. Much has changed in the education labor market over the years, but the difficulty of attracting, training, supporting, and retaining excellent teachers has persisted throughout, especially in underserved schools.
Meanwhile, the National Education Association (NEA) sought opportunities to lengthen teacher training periods. The union had long held that traditional student-teaching assignments (typically for a single semester or less) are too short to result in effective training, advocating the type of training and support employed in teacher residency programs.
An enduring national teacher shortage compounded these problems. Traditional pathways to public school classrooms typically begin at the undergraduate level and take four to five years to complete, too long to provide immediate relief. With demand for teachers increasing, policymakers grew more open to alternative certification programs that quickly deliver teachers to the classroom. Teacher residencies, which can produce licensed teachers in just over a year, certainly fit the bill.
The 2001 passage of No Child Left Behind federal legislation also contributed by placing unprecedented focus on teacher quality at the federal, state, and local levels. The law encouraged districts — especially underperforming districts — to innovate in their search for improvements and solutions, giving birth to programs including Race to the Top and the Teacher Incentive Fund. Teacher residencies offered another potential remedy.
A few teacher residency programs have been operating for over two decades, most current programs grew out of the federal Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, which provides grants to fund programs like teacher residencies. Since 2009, the Department of Education has provided 64 Teacher Quality Grants for residency operations.
Are teacher residency programs effective?
Among the problems facing American public schools, teacher attrition ranks high. National studies indicate that over half of new teachers consider quitting within two years of starting.
Teacher residency programs have proven effective in countering attrition. Programs report 80 to 90 percent retention rates after three years and 70 to 80 percent after five years. That translates to a five-year attrition rate of 30 percent or less, significantly lower than the 50 percent figure for all new teachers at underserved schools. A separate study also indicated that teacher residents were more likely to remain in the same district than their non-resident peers, even after their commitment period ended. Those who remained in the district were more likely to transfer to a school where similar proportions of students were persons of color from low-income families.
Education policy experts believe that teacher residency programs work because they address the problem of inadequate training for new teachers. Teachers who undergo rigorous training and mentorship are more than twice as likely to remain on the job than those who didn’t. Teacher retention is critical because of attrition’s pernicious and pervasive effects. Teacher attrition leads directly to lower student achievement, institutional instability, and higher costs to schools (in the form of additional recruitment and training expenses).
Residency programs not only staunch attrition but do so in the schools where the problem is most acute. Residencies concentrate on hard-to-staff locations (both urban and rural) and in high-demand subject areas (mathematics, science, special education, social studies, and English for bilingual learners). Teachers are recruited for their compatibility with the districts in need and start early so they can be trained to the specific needs of their host schools. By giving agency to host schools and districts, residency programs foster healthy work environments in which residents feel welcome and supported.
Most importantly, teacher residency programs produce positive outcomes for students. The National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR) reports in The Teacher Residency Return on Investment that Tennessee recently rated the Nashville Teacher Residency (NTR) best among the state’s 40 teacher preparation programs, as indicated by student achievement scores. Nationwide, an eye-popping 98 percent of principals surveyed by NCTR deemed teacher residents more effective than teachers prepared through other options.
Benefits of a teacher residency
Teacher residencies bolster educators in many ways. Residents benefit from mentorship, coaching, and a robust support network that extends from their embedded classroom to their master’s degree program. Mentors, faculty, staff, and peers all contribute to encouraging, sustaining work and learning environments.
Residents also reap the rewards of excellent instruction and accreditation. Residency curricula align with apprenticeship work, enabling residents to apply what they learn immediately in real-life situations. By completing a graduate program like the master of arts in teaching (MAT) at NYU Steinhardt, residents begin their teaching careers with a solid grounding in education theory and pedagogy. They also enter their profession with an impressive credential from a nationally acclaimed institution.
As a resident, you will gradually take on more classroom responsibilities as you master teaching and classroom management techniques. You’ll develop an area of content expertise with the skills to create culturally relevant content and welcoming learning experiences for all students, including emergent bilinguals and students with disabilities. Finally, the length of your commitment will allow you time to become part of your school community. That experience will help you tailor your teaching to the specific needs of your students.
In short, teacher residencies produce effective teachers.
Why get an MAT from the NYU Teacher Residency Program?
An MAT from the NYU Teacher Residency Program delivers a high-quality, top-ranked graduate teaching degree respected both regionally and nationally. The program offers transformative teacher preparation, combining thorough academic content from a world-renowned university with teaching experience at the university’s partner district and charter schools. You’ll enjoy support through mentoring, coaching, advising, and your fellow students.
You’ll benefit from the flexibility of online learning, with options to complete your residency in various locations: New York City, Albany, Syracuse, San Francisco (CA), Danbury (CT), Palm Beach County (FL), and Washington, DC. All of these districts share NYU’s commitment to transform teacher preparation and public education.
You’ll join a diverse community at NYU Steinhardt. The program attracts a minimum of 60 percent new teachers of color each year, well above the national recruitment average of 20 percent. You’ll learn to serve all students, including emergent bilinguals and students with disabilities. And, because this is a paid residency, you’ll earn while you learn.
If you have a bachelor’s degree and a passion for teaching others, a teacher residency program can get you in front of your own classroom in just over a year (and into a teaching apprenticeship much sooner). Check eligibility requirements to see whether you qualify, then start your online application.