Why a Residency Model of Training
As we prepared for Memphis Teacher Residency’s first Selection Weekend in March of 2009, the background of one of our applicants surprised us. She had graduated from a reputable teacher preparation program with a degree in elementary education and was completing her first year as a licensed teacher in an inner-city elementary school. Why would she want to leave her teaching position and a full teacher’s salary in order to become a resident in someone else’s classroom, take more coursework, and receive a small stipend?
During the course of the weekend, we learned that after 16 weeks of student teaching and years of coursework, she felt unprepared to face the challenges of teaching in her 3rd grade inner-city classroom. This young teacher was certain God had called her to teach in this environment, but she lacked practical tools to meet the behavioral challenges and the academic gaps she encountered. She believed having an opportunity to watch someone else’s practice for an extended period of time and taking coursework with immediate opportunities for application was what she desperately needed. Five years later, after, she is an alumna of MTR, still teaching elementary school at a high-need school, and with a three-year TEM trend score of 4.91 (out of 5): highly effective.
MTR is currently training our fifth cohort of teachers. Our work has been modeled on the pioneering teacher residency programs in Boston, Chicago, and Denver and is bolstered by Urban Teacher Residency United (UTRU), a voluntary network built in service to the universities, school districts, and non-profits developing and operating teacher residencies.
At Memphis Teacher Residency (MTR), the Residency year has three essential components: coursework leading to a 30 credit-hour Masters Degree in Urban Education (MUEd) and licensure in the State of Tennessee; a year-long internship in a classroom with a Mentor; and an MTR coach to observe the Resident in action, serve as a thought partner, and provide guidance, feedback, and resources.
In the coursework, which is offered by MTR in partnership with Union University, professors are able to have a laser-like focus on how theory and practice align when working with students in Memphis’ high-need schools. The coursework is offered exclusively to the Residents, and two thirds of the faculty have recent experience teaching in urban schools. As Residents learn teaching theory and practice, they are pushed to consider what their new knowledge and skills will mean for their students “Monday morning.”
Coupled with this marriage of theory and practice is the gradual release of responsibility in their residency classroom. The Mentor teacher provides a constant model of excellence and maintains significant responsibility for planning, teaching, and classroom leadership and culture, while supporting the Resident’s increasing involvement in these areas.
The year-long internship in the same classroom and school enables Residents to experience the multi-faceted work of teaching. Residents become deeply involved in the school community and the neighborhoods surrounding the schools, and many assist with coaching and tutoring as a way to forge relationships with students and contribute to the school community. This unique feature of the residency model allows residents to watch a school year unfold from beginning to end. Over the course of the year, they learn the unspoken teacher skills that can only be captured by close, long-term observation.
Although MTR is a relatively new program, we have had some initial success. According to Memphis City Schools 2012 REASI Evaluation Report, 60% of the MTR Graduates studied in the report scored a Level 5: Most Effective rating based on their TVAAS scores. While we know that there is more work to be done in Memphis’ schools and more for us to learn about teacher preparation, we are excited about these early results and the promise that this model of teacher preparation has shown for providing Memphis’ students with effective teachers.
Dr. Robin Scott
Director of Education, Memphis Teacher Residency