Matt Carrier, a resident in Minnesota’s Twin Cities Teacher Collaborative STEM Urban Teacher Residency program, shows student Darertu Doto how to process a crime scene in a forensic science class at Humboldt High School in St. Paul. (Mary Hanson)
Over the last decade, Urban Teacher Residency (UTR) programs have sprung up across the country as a new way to prepare teachers of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to educate students in urban districts. Just as medical residents learn to care for patients while being supervised by an experienced physician at a hospital, preservice teachers in UTRs “are in schools from day one until the last day of the school year. While taking graduate course work, they are seeing the reality of what goes on in an urban school setting on a daily basis,” says Deborah Barton, program director of Denver’s Public Education & Business Coalition’s (PEBC) Colorado Boettcher Teacher Residency.
Boettcher’s “weekly seminar is designed to help residents integrate what they are learning in theory with the reality of teaching,” says Barton. For residents, “being able to see the whole year of a teaching cycle while developing their own identity as a teaching professional is advantageous,” she notes.
The Boettcher residency “provides an affordable way for top college graduates and career-changers” to teach science or math “specifically in and for high-priority schools,” says Barton. Boettcher residents earn their teaching license in the first year and their master’s degree in education during the following year. The program includes a $10,000 stipend during year one, “as well as mentoring and coaching for success in urban schools,” she points out. “The five-year service agreement (including the residency year) that Boettcher teachers make to [teach in] high-needs schools reinforces the commitment to teaching as a profession.”
“Residencies blur the line between training and induction that has been so central to traditional teacher preparation, which means that Boettcher teachers enter the classroom far readier to teach than their counterparts from traditional (and even other alternative) preparation programs,” says Ulcca Joshi Hansen, PEBC’s vice president and executive director of the Colorado Boettcher Teacher Residency. “With respect to science teachers, a residency model allows us to train individuals with specific content knowledge, whether directly out of an undergraduate or graduate program, or a nontraditional background, thus increasing our ability to train and retain candidates with a breadth and depth of experience that is greater than many traditional teacher candidates.”
Working, Learning Together
Unlike most traditional preservice teacher training, UTR programs provide residents with a support team. For example, in Minnesota’s Twin Cities Teacher Collaborative (TC2) STEM Urban Teacher Residency, “residents co-teach for a full academic year with an experienced mentor teacher,” says TC2 Program Director Laura Mogelson. “[Mentors] complete our online professional development for cooperating teachers—the Clinical Faculty Academy. We also have field coordinators who work directly with our resident/cooperating teacher pairs, both as a coach to the resident and as a support to the cooperating teacher,” she explains.
“Having two adults in the classroom provides two role models for our fragile and vulnerable population,” notes Mary Hanson, who teaches chemistry, physics, and forensic science at Humboldt High School in St. Paul and mentors residents as a TC2 cooperating teacher. Co-teaching “allows individual student needs, questions, and concerns to be met in a timely fashion. Learning will not be slowed, as it may in a typical classroom setting, as one teacher attempts to meet the needs of 30-plus students in a 46-minute time frame,” she maintains.
In addition, the TC2 Residency “allows the resident to participate in groundbreaking, cutting-edge professional learning community processes” that equip residents “with practices focused on student achievement, documentation, and multidimensional instructional strategies,” says Hanson. “The residents will have many different formal observations from several different sources throughout their year-long experience. The coordinators for this program will work with us and monitor the progress of the resident, addressing any issues that may arise.”
“Often elementary and secondary teachers do not have the opportunity to interact,” notes Barton. In the Boettcher Teacher Residency, “science candidates are integrated into K–12 cohort and have the opportunity to learn with colleagues through a weekly seminar, as well as actual experience with their mentor in the classroom.”
When residents of New York University’s (NYU) Clinically Rich Integrated Science Program (CRISP) start their residency year, they “spend three weeks in July at a middle school in Brooklyn, where they work with mentor teachers to implement a science unit of study with volunteer students, and then [work] four days a week from September through June in one of three host middle or high schools on Manhattan’s Lower East Side,” says CRISP Program Director Pamela Fraser-Abder, associate professor of science education. “Residents work closely with their classroom teacher/mentor and school’s senior leadership and science faculty, and receive intensive weekly coaching by NYU faculty, the CRISP Residency Coach, and NYU’s Urban Master Teacher in Science.”
Fraser-Abder emphasizes that CRISP residents “work as part of a team with the teachers in their school placement. Rather than being attached to one cooperating teacher, the CRISP students work with a number of teachers in the science programs, including but not limited to the special ed[ucation] teachers and the ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers. More than one CRISP student may be part of the same teaching team in a single class.” She adds, “The NYU faculty member works closely with these teams to help bring NYU resources to help the teachers in the school as much as the students who are becoming teachers.”
Meeting Local Needs
One advantage of UTRs is that their training is targeted to partner school districts’ needs. Typically the residents learn in the same district in which they will work. “We try to respond to school districts’ needs for hard-to-place subjects,” says Barton. “At the secondary level (grades 7–12), finding candidates in certain areas of science can be challenging. Physics and chemistry teachers are often in demand.”
CRISP residents explore “classrooms and other learning environments” in their area by participating “in instructional ‘rounds,’ led by NYU and school faculty, similar to clinical rounds common in medical education,” explains Fraser-Abder. “Rounds will visit fellow CRISP residents’ classrooms, other learning environments in the host and nearby schools, and community settings, such as the Henry Street Settlement and the New York City Center for Space Science Education…Sometimes NYU graduates who are now expert teachers can share their experiences with CRISP students through teleconferencing. This has allowed the ‘rounds’ program to include interesting schools and settings that are not convenient to visit,” she contends.
The TC2 STEM Urban Teacher Residency program launched this year, so its staff are just beginning to gather data on teacher and student success. Boettcher’s Hansen says, “Boettcher teachers are hired eagerly by principals who find them to be reflective practitioners, individuals [who] are able to connect with students and create classroom environments that support the needs of diverse learners, and who are able to assess their own practice, find support, and make improvements…hallmarks of effective educators who elicit [improved student performance].”
She continues, “In terms of student outcomes, external evaluations of student data from Boettcher teachers’ classrooms indicate that [their] students outperform students in other first- through third-year classrooms in literacy and math, but [we] are continuing to collect more longitudinal data…We are also committed to measuring student outcomes that are not captured by standardized test scores, which we believe are just as important, [such as] students’ ability to take ownership of their learning; students’ ability to be critical thinkers; the development of dispositions that help high-needs students to succeed beyond the one year in Boettcher teachers’ classrooms; [and so on].”
Fraser-Abder reports 99% of science teachers trained through NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, which includes CRISP residents, “are still teaching after five years, compared to the national average of 50%.” In addition, she notes, “95% of our graduates remain teaching 10 years or longer in the range of urban school settings (Title 1 schools, charter [schools], and private [schools]). The graduates of our pilot program have all found jobs, and we anticipate that they will stay in teaching.”