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

A new report released today by Urban Teacher Residencies United (UTRU) suggests that districts, teachers and students benefit from programs 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 Aspire and Denver 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.

The report isn’t the first time Aspire’s residency has been put in the spotlight recently: The New York Times profiled the teacher residency earlier this year.

Aspire, a charter network that now has 38 schools, launched its residency program in 2010. It has graduated 63 residents, 82 percent of whom remained in the classroom after 3 years. Aspire’s mentor teachers get a $3,000 stipend.

Aspire’s teachers who participated in its residency program were more likely to score “highly effective” on their evaluations than their first-year teaching peers, according to the report.

Aspire materials hint at the intensity of the program: “Several of the mentors have shared that they spend more time with their resident than anyone else in their life.”