From a handful of early pioneer programs launched a decade ago to today’s robust professional learning communities and networks that are shaping education policy, the teacher residency movement continues to grow in both size and influence.

Since our founding in 2007, the National Center for Teacher Residencies has helped launch more than two dozen residency programs that have collectively trained approximately 3,500 teachers for high-need, low-income schools. Residencies are gaining support from policymakers. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have included residency programs in their plans to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, while California recently approved $75 million for new residency programs in hard-to-fill subject areas.

Little, if any of this, would have been possible without the support and vision of the W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation, which has, in ways big and small, powered the growth and scale of teacher residencies nationwide.

“The teacher residency movement is changing how teachers are prepared for America’s classrooms,” said Anissa Listak, CEO and founder of NCTR. “That would not have happened without the Stone Foundation, which was among the first philanthropies to try to address teacher quality through clinical preparation.”

In 2007, the Stone Foundation provided start-up funding to NCTR with the goal of increasing student achievement over the long run by improving teacher quality. The foundation’s vision required a reimagining of teacher preparation so that pre-service candidates could receive clinical training that would ensure they were ready for the rigors of the classroom before becoming full fledged teachers. The goal was to create cohesion and partnership between school districts, local institutions of higher education and the neighboring community to ensure new teachers were equipped with the skills needed to be effective on their first day on the job.

“We wanted to think about a model or a system that would create quality teachers, instead of just working with a handful of teachers or doing professional development,” said Sara Slaughter,  the foundation’s executive director. “We wanted to really think about a system for preparing teachers who would gain the knowledge and experience they would need to be successful. That is why we support NCTR.”

Both NCTR and the foundation share the belief that strengthening human capital in high need schools is key to addressing inequities in public education. NCTR’s current network of 29 residencies includes programs that are committed to diverse, equitable and inclusive candidate recruitment, focused on effective teacher educator training and dedicated to data-backed, continuous program improvement and sustainability.  

The foundation funds individual teacher residency programs with interesting or innovative models and/or those that maximize teacher quality. In past years, the foundation supported NCTR Network Partners such as the Boston Teacher Residency, New Visions for Public Schools – Hunter College Urban Teacher Residency and the University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program. Central to its funding strategy is the foundation’s focus on advancing programming focused on race and equity.

“Understanding that it is important to students to have a teacher that looks like them, many of the residencies we support are focused on recruiting candidates of color to better align the demographics of the teacher and student populations,” said Brandon Thorne, senior program officer at the foundation. “Even further than that, a lot of programs have made a commitment to zero in on cultural competency, knowing that it is important for teachers to … have a solid grasp on the lives of their students outside of the school.”

Slaughter argues a sole focus on training would make incremental improvements, but not take into account the bigger picture for students. The foundation puts great emphasis on using student achievement research to inform its giving. Slaughter says data around social emotional skill development, student demographics, and trauma-informed teaching practices all pointed to supporting the residency model. “When we think about recruiting and retaining teachers of color, we are doing so because research and demographics tell us we need to do that,” Slaughter said.

The Stone Foundation’s students-first philosophy meshed well with the ambitious work the University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP) is doing around diverse and inclusive candidate recruitment. The foundation’s support over the last three years allowed UTEP to expand its search nationally to focus on finding top talent within a more diverse candidate pool. Through the Stone Foundation’s support, the program attended new recruiting events, traveled to historically black colleges and universities, and increased its social media presence in order to attract candidates who are committed to working in high-need, urban communities for the long haul. UTEP’s Co-Director Bill Kennedy credits the foundation with enabling UTEP to bring in candidates with a broader set of experience and knowledge.

“Our incoming class is more diverse than ever. Right now, we have 28 candidates and 17 of them are people of color,” Kennedy said. “The Stone Foundation continues to support programs as they mature. This program was initially designed for University of Chicago undergraduates, and now we are recruiting candidates with bachelor’s degrees from across the country, Chicago residents and graduates of Chicago Public Schools—all groups that were not part of original program design. The program was historically white, but now we are preparing majority of teachers of color.”

The Stone Foundation and NCTR’s shared vision for improving student achievement by advancing teacher quality, resulted in investments that shaped NCTR’s programming over the last 11 years. “When you are starting with a really complex challenge, like improving student achievement through quality teacher preparation, enacting a systemic framework for continuous improvement takes time,” said Listak. “The foundation’s commitment to supporting NCTR and our program partners has allowed the movement to mature and develop.”

NCTR, our residency partners and the Stone Foundation are working together to close the student achievement gap by playing the long game. The foundation is clear that its giving model is wholly dependent on the goals its grantees aim to achieve. “As we are trying to think of a model for preparing teachers, or building a system to do so, we can’t provide support for one year and think that will create a pipeline of teachers, particularly in hard-to-staff schools,” said Slaughter. “The goal is to make sure each child, each student, has what he or she needs to have equitable and successful outcomes. If you start there, then you have what you need to constantly improve and evolve the way we prepare our teachers, the way we prepare our school leaders, the school culture and the policy context.”