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Report: Denver’s teacher residency held up as a model

Since 2009, 140 new teachers in Denver have skipped traditional teacher education programs and student teaching in favor of an intense, yearlong apprenticeship known as the Denver Teacher Residency.

And a new report argues that those teachers may be better prepared for the classroom than their peers trained through other programs.

A new report released today by Urban Teacher Residencies United (UTRU) suggests that districts, teachers and students benefit from programs like DTR that give teachers a year of school-based mentorship and coaching.

The report, which was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, highlights both the Denver Teacher Residency and a similar program at Aspire, a network of charter schools with schools in Tennessee and California, as particularly effective residency programs. (The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also supports some of Chalkbeat’s coverage.)

Teaching residencies have become increasingly common in the past decade, even as traditional teacher preparation programs have seen a steep drop in enrollment.

The report describes the Denver and Aspire programs’ recruitment and selection programs, which screen candidates for their aptitude; coursework and seminars “built around the classroom experience;” coaching and feedback for residents; evaluation systems focused on continual improvement; and school systems that the report’s authors say reflect “a collaborative culture, clear teacher effectiveness rubrics, and a growth mindset.”

The report highlighted common practices in Aspire and Denver:

  • Residents in each program “take over” a class for a number of days each semester. The idea is that teacher residents’ confidence and voice will develop over the course of the year.
  • Both the Aspire and Denver programs are housed within the school system itself, rather than outside it.
  • Both programs offer stipends to mentor teachers but also emphasize that mentoring also helps mentor teachers reflect on their practice.

The report argues that both traditional teacher training programs and residencies can benefit by focusing more on practical lessons and less on theory.

In Denver, which launched its residency in 2009, 84 percent of DTR graduates have stayed in the district for at least three years. The report says that graduates of the residency outscored their peers on each of the 12 components of the district’s evaluation system.

The report said that efforts to extend Denver’s program into schools where fewer students qualified for free and reduced-price lunches in 2013-14 proved less than effective, as residents and mentors were less connected to their peers in other schools.

Still, the program will likely remain part of the district’s human resource strategy. At a meeting of Denver’s school board this week, superintendent Tom Boasberg sported a fleece with an embroidered DTR logo. And the district is planning to create residencies for assistant principals and aspiring leaders as well.