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When High Turnover Threatens Learning, This Unique Program Helps Urban Schools Retain Talented Teachers

September 4, 2014
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When High Turnover Threatens Learning, This Unique Program Helps Urban Schools Retain Talented Teachers
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A full-year residency gives new teachers the experienced support they need.

The first day of school can be just as nerve-wracking for new teachers as it is for students. Not only is it their first time in the classroom on their own, but gaining the command and respect of children is no easy task.

In the Baltimore school district, hundreds of teachers are hired every year to fill vacant spots. And just as fast as they’re hired, it seems that they’re gone: 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession within three years. This cycle continues year after year.

That’s why former Baltimore school administrator Jennifer Green and her colleague decided to do something about it. In 2009, they quit their jobs to form the Urban Teacher Center (UTC), a Baltimore-based organization working to end the fast burnout rate by preparing new teachers for that first year in the classroom.

How do they plan to do this? Well, in exchange for $20,000 from a school’s principal, UTC will send a recent college graduate to spend a year as a resident working alongside an experienced teacher. Over the course of the year, the resident will gain valuable first-hand experience, take graduate classes and have a chance to receive a full-time job offer.

[Other routes] “don’t have the one year of mirroring an effective teacher,” David Wise, a UTC participant tells Governing. “That helps you a lot.”

If hired, the residents can continue to work and earn their masters from Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass.

Currently, UTC has 123 teachers in 35 schools across Baltimore and 200 teachers in 41 schools in Washington. The group plans to expand to Chicago next year and four more cities in the next five years. And it’s not alone, as similar residencies are already established in Boston, Minneapolis and Miami.

It’s obvious that American students are lagging behind students in other countries, and educators are looking towards teachers as both the problem and the solution. Some critics call for stricter and more rigorous application and training processes for new teachers, while others propose evaluating teachers based partly on how their students perform on standardized tests.

UTC falls into the category of the first group. Its process is selective as only 25 percent of the applicants are accepted for the four-year program.

Already, the program is showing results. Although the attrition rate for the first class of UTC residents was the same as the national average, the second class is entering its third year with retention rates improved to 82 percent.

For the school districts, residencies are providing a great, cost-efficient opportunity to find and train new, effective teachers.

“We look for any way we can to get more qualified adults working with students for an extended period of time. The more positive adult interactions kids have, the better they do in school,” Principal Anthony Ruby of Holabird Academy tells Governing. “I can afford four full-time residents for what is still $10,000 less than a teacher.”

With both residents and principals calling it a bargain, this new system may just be the future of education. But the biggest winner? The students.

MORE: This City Gives Dropouts a Realistic Way to Earn Their Diplomas

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