By Anne Matz, Director of New Site Development and Adithi Chandrashekar, Marketing Manager

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In our November 15, 2017 E-Blast, NCTR shared findings from a new study by the New Teacher Center (NTC) that found that instructional leadership and teacher leadership both contribute to improved student performance and school improvement. In this post, NCTR looks at the alignment between the report’s key findings and the teacher residency model.

In “School Leadership Counts,” NTC identified specific elements of instructional leadership that have a positive correlation with improved student performance. Those elements include:

  1. Ensuring teachers are accountable to high instructional standards;
  2. “Fostering a shared vision among faculty and administration for the school”;
  3. Putting an effective school administrator in place, and;
  4. Sustaining a school improvement team.

Residency programs work at both the teacher and school levels to build instructional leadership elements that focus on improving student achievement. Teacher residencies make a significant impact on teachers’ ability and confidence to meet high instructional standards, and prepare new teachers to demonstrate these practices in their daily teaching. The residency model also fosters a shared vision for schools and districts in its residents from the very beginning of their pre-service training.

NCTR’s Standards for Effective Teacher Residencies set forth clear guideposts for developing and improving residency programs. The Standards lead programs to create a shared vision for effective teaching and for the learning experiences residents have to develop effective instructional skills.

Ensuring Residency Graduates are Accountable to High Instructional Standards

The groundwork for educators to meet high instructional standards starts with an integrated clinical preparation experience. At the teacher level, residencies ensure new teachers are ready to thrive in an environment with strong instructional leadership because they know there is no better training environment than the school itself. During their training year, residents work alongside teacher educators who guide them to develop the competencies of an effective teacher.

Deliberate practice is at the heart of the residency year experience. In their coursework and clinical experience, residents are given opportunities to learn, rehearse, enact and reflect on practices like designing high quality lessons and student assessments, eliciting and interpreting student thinking, and supporting students across their social, emotional and academic needs.

The residency year experience includes gateway assessments during which residents are evaluated on their demonstration of teacher competencies that are aligned to the instructional standards of the school and district. Measures include observations of teacher practice, student assessments and improved quality of student work, and teachers’ self-assessment of practice. Using these measures, residency program staff provide ongoing, differentiated feedback to residents and professional development to program graduates, early-on in their career as teachers of records in a partner district.

Residency programs continue to develop and grow candidates and graduates for teacher leadership roles. Many residency graduates return to the program as teacher educators in the role of the mentor teacher.

Fostering a Shared Vision for Schools

Through a school-based, clinical model, teacher residencies prepare candidates that meet the specific human capital and instructional needs of the schools, districts, and communities where they teach. Residencies create a strong pipeline of graduates that are committed to working within the districts where they are trained.

At the school level, residents enter the classroom with an understanding of the vision for the residency partnership, which is laid out by the school district, IHE, and nonprofit stakeholders at the earliest stages of program development. Residencies work from their partner school’s vision for success early on by preparing candidates to fill district’s human capital needs in pre-K, elementary, and secondary grade levels, or hard-to-fill areas like special education and STEM. Residents train and are hired in schools in low-income neighborhoods. Through their boots-on-the-ground preparation, candidates know the challenges, rigors, and joys of the work in the district and the specific school sites where they will serve – and understand and support a school’s vision for success – long before they become teachers of record.

A residency program at its best ensures residents have a voice in designing and delivering lessons and creating a vision for instructional practice. Residents participate in the professional learning communities of their schools alongside their mentor teachers. Residents also train in cohorts, and begin their teaching careers collaborating with their peers to learn best practices in meeting instructional goals. Mentor teachers model the behaviors needed to build strong relationships with teams of teachers and school administration, and develop strong leadership skills. Because they are empowered to make instructional decisions during their training, residency graduates enter the profession feeling ready to lead on Day One.