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Memphis Teacher Residency to share national platform under Gates grant

A Memphis teacher preparation program will receive national exposure under a $35 million initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve teacher education across the nation.

The Memphis Teacher Residency, known as MTR, will pilot new preparation techniques and serve as a model for other residencies and university programs as a demonstration site for the National Center for Teacher Residencies.

The Gates Foundation announced Wednesday its investment over three years to five newly formed “Teacher Preparation Transformation Centers.” The centers will bring together higher education institutions, teacher-preparation providers and K-12 school systems to share data, knowledge and best practices for preparing new teachers.

Among those five centers is the National Center for Teacher Residencies, which has operations in Memphis, New York City, Boston, Seattle and Denver.

“This just allows our work and our impact on students in Memphis to become greater, and for us to share our lessons on a larger platform,” MTR director Robin Scott said Thursday.

The investment is the foundation’s first as part of its teacher preparation initiative, launched in April.

The Gates Foundation already has had a significant impact on teacher development in Memphis, where the recruitment, retention and training of high-quality teachers has been a longstanding challenge. In 2009, Memphis City Schools received a $90 million Gates grant to improve teacher effectiveness — initially through the city school system and later through the consolidated Shelby County Schools. The money has been used to reshape the district’s teacher strategies.

Under the new Gates initiative, the National Center for Teacher Residencies is the only “transformational center” that isn’t based in universities or state education departments.

MTR, a Christian-based nonprofit organization, differs from other non-university teacher training programs because residents spend their first year paired four days a week with an experienced Shelby County Schools teacher while attending classes Fridays and Saturdays at Union University. In their second year, they apply to jobs with the district on their own.

Residents commit to teaching for three years in Memphis after the initial residency year. Ninety-three percent of its 200 participants have continued in education after their commitment is up.

MTR has been lauded for its work preparing teachers for Shelby County classrooms. In its most recent report card for teacher preparation programs, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission complimented MTR for preparing teachers who “outperform other teachers in the state or are on an upward trend in effectiveness scores.”

MTR also operates a summer program to recruit college students from across the nation to experience urban education in Memphis, as well as to stem summer learning loss among the city’s low-income students.