In the Classroom

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.

talking SHSAT

Love or hate the specialized high school test, New York City students take the exam this weekend

PHOTO: Christina Veiga/Chalkbeat
At a town hall this summer in Brooklyn's District 15, parents protested city plans to overhaul admissions to elite specialized high schools.

The Specialized High Schools Admissions Test has been both lauded as a fair measure for who gets accepted to the city’s most coveted high schools — and derided as the cause for starkly segregating them.

This weekend, the tense debate is likely to be far from the minds of thousands of students as they sit for the three-hour exam, which currently stands as the sole admissions criteria for vaunted schools such as Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech.

All the debate and all the policy stuff that’s been happening —  it’s just words and there really isn’t anything concrete that’s been put into place yet. So until it happens, they just continue on,” said Mahalia Watson, founder of the website Let’s Talk Schools, an online guide for parents navigating their school options.

Mayor Bill de Blasio this summer ignited a firestorm with a proposal to nix the SHSAT and instead offer admission to top middle school students across the city. Critics say the test is what segregates students, offering an advantage to families who can afford tutoring or simply are more aware of the importance of the exam. Only 10 percent of specialized high school students are black or Hispanic, compared to almost 70 percent of all students citywide.

For some, the uproar, coupled with a high profile lawsuit claiming Harvard University discriminates against Asian applicants, has only added to the pressure to get a seat at a specialized school. Asian students make up about 62 percent of enrollment at specialized high schools, and families from that community have lobbied hard to preserve the way students are admitted.

One Asian mother told Chalkbeat in an email that, while she believes in the need for programs that promote diversity, the SHSAT is “a color blind and unbiased” admissions measure. Her daughter has been studying with the help of test prep books, and now she wonders whether it will be enough.  

“In my opinion, options for a good competitive high school are very limited,” the mom wrote. “With all the recent news of the mayor trying to change the admission process to the specialized high schools and the Harvard lawsuit makes that more important for her to get acceptance.”

Last year, 28,000 students took the SHSAT, and only 5,000 were offered admission. Among this year’s crop of hopeful students is Robert Mercier’s son, an eighth grader with his sights set on High School of American Studies at Lehman College.

Mercier has encouraged his son to study for the test — even while hoping that the admissions system will eventually change. His son plays catcher on a baseball team and is an avid debater at school, activities that Mercier said are important for a well-rounded student and should be factored into admissions decisions.

“If you don’t do well on that one test but you’ve been a great student your whole career,” Mercier said, “I just don’t think that’s fair and I don’t think that’s necessarily a complete assessment of a student’s abilities or worth.”

Teacher's tale

Video: This Detroit teacher explains how she uses her classroom to ‘start a real loud revolution’

Silver Danielle Moore, a teacher at the Detroit Leadership Academy, tells her story at the Tale the Teacher storytelling event on October 6, 2018.

Silver Danielle Moore doesn’t just see teaching as way to pass along information to students. She views teaching as a way to bring about change.

“The work of us as educators is to start a real loud revolution,” Moore told the audience this month at a teacher storytelling event co-sponsored by Chalkbeat. “The revolution will not happen without resistance, and social justice classrooms are the instruments of that resistance.”

Moore, a teacher at the Detroit Leadership Academy charter school, was one of four Detroit educators who told their stories on stage at the Tale the Teacher event held at the Lyft Lounge at MusicTown Detroit on October 6.

The event, organized by Western International High School counselor Joy Mohammed, raised about $120 that Mohammed said she used to buy a laptop for a student who needed it to participate on the school’s yearbook staff.

Over the next few weeks, Chalkbeat will be posting videos of the stories told at the event.

Moore, a self-proclaimed “black hip-hop Jesus feminist” opened her story with a memory of leaving a teacher training session four years ago to travel to Ferguson, Missouri, to be part of Labor Day weekend protests after Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American man, was fatally shot by a police officer.

“There was so much grief but also so much fight in that place,” she recalled. “I will never forget the moment I stood at the place that Mike Brown was killed. I will never forget the look in his mother’s face.”

She recalled bringing that experience back to Detroit and to her classroom.

“Imagine, after that weekend, returning back to the classroom on September 2nd,” she said. “I fought that weekend for Mike Brown … but I also did it for the 66 kids I would have that school year and every child I have had since then.”

Watch Moore’s full story here:

Video by Colin Maloney

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