Commentary: Residency Programs for Future Teachers
By Jim Rosborg
Local residency programs are developing to increase the number of individuals in Illinois who have a teaching license. Teacher residency programs typically are an alternative pathway to teaching for prospective educators who already have a bachelor’s degree. In the teacher residency model, teachers-to-be integrate masters-level education content with a yearlong classroom internship in a public school. In the current educator shortage, the state could explore a semester model, for the short term.
Given the current crisis, I am a big supporter of residency programs, although I would have had questions in the past when we had an overabundance of candidates. Now I think it is necessary and workable if set up properly. The key is to increase qualified people in the classroom. Before I go on, I want to thank both Chuck Lane, Superintendent at Centralia HSD 200, and Jennifer Garrison, Superintendent at Vandalia CUSD 203, for their assistance and expertise in this area.
Currently, Blackburn College and Eastern Illinois University have used the Golden Apple Scholars and Accelerators program that Lane and Garrison helped develop. Other colleges are following.
This course grouping was intended for career changers who already had bachelor’s degrees but not in the field of education. The teacher residency requirement was built into the Golden Apple agreement that each school district agreed to. The great part about this was the state allocated enough funding to Golden Apple through an appropriation in the budget to give each candidate a $30,000 scholarship to pay for tuition, fees, transportation, etc. The funding was provided to candidates through a competitive program that they applied to. However, the format was offered by Blackburn and EIU to anyone that wanted to pay for the classes outright.
How does the teaching residency model work? A teaching candidate starts in the summer, taking a heavy load of classes. Once the fall semester begins, the candidate is placed into a classroom in a district in the program, and with a teacher of the subject area the candidate is pursuing. The candidate works with the teacher through the day: Assisting students, preparing lessons, tutoring, grading papers, etc., basically anything the lead teacher needs help with. This setup leads to the teaching candidate preparing some lessons for the lead teacher, and ultimately ends with the candidate delivering some lessons to the students under the direction of the lead teacher.
The teaching candidate takes classes online at Blackburn or EIU during the first year of residency in the classroom. The classes continue during the second summer of the program, typically with a mixture of in-person and online. The candidate takes the content area exam during that summer period.
In this program, upon returning to the school district that next fall, the teaching candidate is placed in the classroom as the teacher of record (assuming they passed the content test). The lead teacher is still in the classroom with the candidate, but the roles would be reversed when compared to the original setup. If the candidate did not pass the content test, they could still work with the lead teacher and be allowed to do some delivery of content at the teacher’s discretion.
At the conclusion of the program, the school district hires the candidate who is required to stay for a minimum of five years (if they accepted the $30,000 scholarship). This requirement was the same requirement I had to sign when I was given the teacher tuition scholarship by the state in 1968. If the school district hosts the candidate but does not have an opening, Golden Apple will place the candidate in another district of need.
A caveat with this program is it was setup for candidates who already have bachelor’s degrees. Some additional coursework in the content area and classroom management would have to be added, or otherwise figuring out a way to waive some of requirements based on classroom experience, for paraprofessionals or aides that do not have degrees. It is all doable though if the state can get university partners to agree to the program and to the requirements for licensure.