When it comes to reforming education, innovation is essential.
Complex challenges such as teacher retention, student achievement and teacher and student preparedness require innovative solutions. That’s why Clemson University’s College of Education is launching South Carolina’s first university-led teacher residency program, a research-based initiative to retain teachers, bolster teacher preparation and classroom readiness, and improve student learning outcomes.
In a traditional student-teacher program, student teachers spend just a few weeks in the classroom.
But our program will last a full year, and teacher residents will not only participate in the classroom but also plan and attend meetings and events and engage in virtually every activity undertaken by practicing teachers — all under the guidance of a master teacher. This process will give teacher residents a more comprehensive experience and make them more attractive to school districts upon graduation.
Research has shown that spending extended time in the classroom provides teachers a more comprehensive foundation and inspires mastery and self-confidence, and will keep budding teachers in their classrooms long after graduation. A similar residency program at California State University, Los Angeles, saw teacher retention among participants increase to 90 percent, much higher than that of traditional programs.
Retaining high-quality teachers has positive financial implications. It costs about $18,000 to replace a teacher in South Carolina, according to research conducted through the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Consortium for Policy Research in Education.
However, teacher retention benefits students even more. Retaining teachers means retaining institutional knowledge, school capacity building and consistent teamwork, key ingredients for students’ academic success. With a more experienced and consistent teacher work force, students will be more likely to stay in school and embrace bright futures.
At the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, there were 481 vacant teaching positions in South Carolina public school classrooms — up 7.3 percent from the previous year, according to the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement. A total of 6,482 of the state’s teachers did not return to their positions, a 21 percent increase from 2015-2016. The need for increased teacher retention is evident, and this teacher residency program will work toward reversing these trends.
With a better starting salary, less college debt and expert preparation, these new teachers will be well-positioned for long, successful education careers.
This program is also good news for teacher residents, who will emerge after five years at Clemson with a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in education, as well as the year-long residency experience. With a better starting salary, less college debt and expert preparation, these new teachers will be well-positioned for long, successful education careers.
The Clemson College of Education and seven Upstate school districts are hard at work designing the teacher residency pilot program, as well as a vigorous approach to research and evaluation that compares its success to that of traditional teacher-preparation programs. We understand there are challenges to getting something this ambitious off the ground, but S.C. students deserve a program that will enhance their educational experience and help them succeed. Our eventual goal is to perfect this model and expand the program to the rest of the state.
This groundbreaking program will be housed in the college’s Eugene T. Moore School of Education and is made possible through the generosity of Darla Moore, whose father, the school’s namesake, had a distinguished career as a teacher, coach and principal in Lake City. With the college’s track record of excellence in teacher preparation and the generosity of the Moore family, we will continue to innovate to transform education and positively impact South Carolina’s children and communities.
Dr. Petersen is founding dean of Clemson’s College of Education; contact him at email@example.com.