Facebook Twitter

Teaching prep pilots on the rise in SIG and high-needs schools

A new recruitment program designed to keep teachers in high-needs schools for the long-term is ramping up its presence in schools where the city is preparing to replace large swaths of teachers.

The city’s $1.3 million teacher apprenticeship program, called the NYC Teaching Residency for School Turnaround, embeds teachers-in-training in high-needs schools and pairs them in classrooms taught by experienced teachers to ease the learning curve. The program launched last summer with 26 residents in two schools and was funded in part with money from federal School Improvement Grants. Next year, the Department of Education aims to double the number of residents and expand into more schools eligible for SIG funding.

Currently the only schools in line to receive SIG funding are the 33 the city has proposed for a “turnaround” at the end of the year, meaning one of the schools that hosted residents this year — Queens Vocational and Technical High School — is likely to close its program at the end of the school year. Queens Vocational was one of six schools that had been receiving SIG funds that the city determined in January should no longer be eligible for them. An education department spokeswoman said no decision has been made about the residency program, but the school’s website is already promoting a different residency starting next year.

The residency is part of a series of recruitment models that the department’s Office of Teacher Recruitment and Quality is piloting to better prepare new teachers for classrooms in high-needs communities. One hundred and thirty-six new NYC Teaching Fellows — up from 25 a year ago — were paired with a mentor teacher this month and will work in classrooms for the remainder of the school year as part of an apprenticeship program to supplement the 10-week training they will receive this summer. The fellows will earn a $3,500 stipend for the remainder of the school year.

The DOE is busy staffing up for the expansion of both programs. It is hiring a director to oversee the residency program, something that aroused some confusion and suspicion among some current teachers this week. In a SchoolBook column earlier this week, a teacher lamented that a job posting for the position spelled doom for “tenured, higher paid teachers” because it would replace them with uncertified teachers.

In fact, this year’s small cohort of residents will be eligible to apply for fulltime teaching positions in the fall while finishing up a Master’s program at St. John’s University. The residency expansion was planned months before Mayor Bloomberg announced plans to shake up the SIG program, shuffling most of the schools that had been receiving funds into the turnaround model in order to qualify for the money without union sign-off. The SchoolBook column has since been updated with a correction.

The fledgling residency program in New York City, which pays residents $22,500 for the school year, has received largely positive reviews this year. Linda Rosenbury, principal at J.H.S. 22 Jordan L Mott in the Bronx, said the residency benefited all who were working in it.

“Our strongest educators are our mentors and they’re being intellectually fulfilled because they have to articulate their practices in a way that they didn’t have to when they were alone,” Rosenbury said. And since two residents work in the classroom most of the time, student-teacher ratios have dipped below 10:1, maximizing individualized instruction, she said.

For the residents, Rosenbury said, their crash course in first-year teaching is coming in a low-risk environment.

“They’re making all of their mistakes now, so when they start in September in their classroom, they’re going to be much more ready,” Rosenbury added. Like principals in the other turnaround schools, Rosenbury will likely have to replace up to 50 percent of her staff at the end of the school year. She said that it was too soon to make decisions about who would be hired back but added that she had confidence that many of her residents this year were ready to take over full-time teaching positions in schools such as hers.

The residency’s first year was not without some road bumps. Department officials said that mentor teachers, who earn $3,000 for each resident they work with, are the most important element to a functioning residency program. But at Queens Vocational, residents reported that some mentors picked for the program were not readily available to support their development, according to a survey the department conducted. The school’s principal declined to comment.

Residency programs are also prohibitively more expensive than any other kind of certification program, a factor that will likely prevent the city’s programs from expanding to fully meet the city’s hiring needs. Despite the programs’ promise, experts say it’s still too early to know how effective they will be at achieving their goal, which is to place stronger teachers in high-needs schools in low-income communities.

“I think we have a lot to learn about them, but it’s certainly provided much more promise in terms of ensuring that teachers will have support in these kinds of settings,” said James Kemple, executive director of the Research Alliance at New York University, who studied talent development as a director of MDRC. “They’re changing the game quite a bit, but I don’t think we know anything about their effectiveness.”