Several new studies on teachers’ experience in the classroom and student achievement suggest that it’s time to discard long-held notions that teacher performance increases only for the first few years on the job. In fact, the research suggests, the average teacher continues to build her capacity for at least her first ten years on the job and possibly longer.

As John P. Papay, a Brown University assistant professor of education and economics and co-author of one of the studies, said, teacher quality is not fixed; it develops over time. He and his co-author, Matthew A. Kraft, also of Brown University, found that although the most marked improvements in the progress made by teachers in their study occurred during their first few years in the classroom, teachers’ ability to improve student achievement persisted well beyond their first three to five years on the job. And, as another recent study suggests, the longer the average teacher is on the job, the more prepared she is to improve not only her students’ achievement levels but also their behavior – most notably their school attendance, time spent reading for pleasure and completing homework , and their number of reported disruptive classroom offenses – all behaviors that reflect in part learned motivation, perseverance and self-control.

All the more reason, then, that teacher preparation programs and teacher quality policies increase their focus on improving teacher retention. To that end, UTRU’s residency model is helping to reduce high teacher turnover rates, and impact data show that the vast majority of UTRU residency graduates stay in their schools beyond those crucial first three years: In 2014 84 percent of graduates were still teaching after 3 years and 71 percent of graduates were still teaching after 5 years.

Two components of UTRU’s residency model promote the retention of excellent teachers:

— Extended clinical preparation of residents. Over the course of an academic year, residents move from a collaborative, co-teaching role with an experienced teacher mentor in the classroom to an increasingly demanding lead-teaching role. The experience of spending a full academic year in an high need classroom, developing under the guidance of an experienced mentor teacher enables residents to gain valuable insight into effective teaching methodology and helps them develop the knowledge, skills and habits of mind that come from years of experience in the classroom.

— The mentoring role, which provides professional growth opportunities for teachers of record. Mentors become better teachers and leaders by participating in a residency program. Ninety-two (92) percent of mentors from UTRU’s Network programs strongly agree that mentoring for their residency program has made them more effective practitioners and offers them a unique and powerful professional growth opportunity. Mentors report that feedback from their fellow mentors and residency program staff supports their own growth and practice. Principals agree: 88 percent of principals who host network program residents strongly agree that mentors in their building have grown into more effective practitioners by participating in the residency program.