Part Four: A School District’s Perspective on Launching a Residency was written by Adela Madrigal Jones, Associate Superintendent of Sanger Unified School District, which is near Fresno, California.  NCTR is currently running a multi-part blog series which highlights our work and the work of our partners at the California State University (CSU) system through the New Generation of Educators Initiative. Sanger Unified is partnering with Fresno State University to build a teacher residency program that will meet the school district’s hiring needs and support the preparation of effective, committed teachers that will work with their students for years to come.

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When Fresno State’s Kremen School of Education & Human Development first approached Sanger Unified School District about a potential partnership that would launch a teacher residency program, my first thought was, “we already partner with you by having student teachers in our district. Why would we need to do anything different?” But as we began to discuss the residency model, I quickly realized that the partnership would be different. We came to understand that the model would set our district up to hire well-prepared teachers that embodied our goals, beliefs, and culture for years to come.

After learning more about the residency model, I felt confident that it would enable Sanger Unified to tackle both teacher effectiveness and retention. At the district, we take great pride in ensuring that we hire the best people to put in front of our students because we know – and research supports the fact that – the teacher is the most important indicator of student success. Research also shows that many new teachers who are not well prepared leave the profession within five years. The residency model ensures that they are supported and mentored, not just throughout the initial phase of a classroom placement, but continued through their years of working in our district.

As we started planning for our first residency cohort, we knew we needed some guidance on ensuring that our model would be effective. The National Center for Teacher Residencies supported our efforts with examples and templates we could use in our planning discussions. The documents provided were flexible and adapted for our district’s needs. We also visited a district that has successfully implemented a residency model, and met with other residency partnerships in California. This support ensured that we employed best practices from the field into our own program design and allowed us to ask the right questions along the way.

Our district’s vision of providing options and opportunities for all our students requires hiring teachers that are collaborative, innovative, and who truly believe that ALL students can and must learn. We invest a lot of our resources supporting our teachers with embedded coaching and opportunities for co-planning and co-teaching. When we hire new teachers, our principals are always looking for the knowledge, strategies and core beliefs that we value at Sanger Unified. Using a model of preparing our future teachers with these look-fors through our partnership with the university will ensure our teachers understand the work, our priorities and are developing goals that are achievable and moving the needle on student growth.

The teacher residency model provides us the opportunity to work closely with the university in developing the coursework and syllabuses for our teacher candidates. Our district’s Professional Development Department is part of the sequence, with 3 hours every Friday devoted to learning specific topics that we have covered with current staff, which include Guided Reading, Effective Instruction, and English Language Development. We also are embedding time with district leaders to speak to teacher candidates during the preparation, which enables our leaders to interact with future teachers in our district.

Sanger Unified is fortunate to partner with Fresno State in developing our residency program together. I truly believe that our future teachers will be well prepared to not only teach our students, but come in confident in the knowledge that they have the support they need to stay in the profession and to remain active, engaged teachers within the Sanger Unified School District.

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Adela Madrigal Jones
Associate Superintendent
Sanger Unified School District