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Educators Rethink Teacher Training

Urban residency programs offer intensive mentoring and in-class preparation.

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Columbia University's Teachers College launched a 14-month residency program last September with 20 students seeking to become teachers of English as a second language or special education in New York City. Each participant receives a $22,500 stipend as well as substantially discounted tuition while earning a master's degree and state certification. 

Other institutions, like the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and the colleges of education and science at Texas State University–San Marcos, have developed similar urban residency programs in partnership with local school systems. 

Graduates of such programs who leave before fulfilling their teaching commitments typically must pay back all or part of the stipends and tuition discounts they have received. This might help explain why 85 percent to 90 percent of alumni from the oldest programs—in Boston, Chicago, and Denver—are still in the classroom after five years, compared to a national average of about 50 percent for all new teachers. The other likely explanation is that residency training simply prepares urban teachers better for the daily realities they face. 

Most states are still developing the costly and complex data systems needed to track student performance over time and to link it to individual teachers. Urban residency programs have shown early signs of success, but in the years to come it will be the hard data on classroom achievement that will ultimately reveal their effectiveness. 

Justin Snider teaches undergraduate writing at Columbia University. This article was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education news outlet affiliated with the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, based at Columbia's Teachers College. 

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