To improve educator diversity and address educator shortages, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) awards grants to universities in the state to develop and implement teacher and principal residency preparation programs. The programs must offer aspiring teachers and principals a residency of at least a year, consisting of clinical practice in schools with trained mentors, aligned coursework, and financial aid. The programs must focus on improving diversity and must partner with districts with chronic teacher or principal shortages, high proportions of students of color or in poverty, or that have been identified for state support.
This study examines eight residency programs that received grants for the 2019/20 school year. The study interviewed program staff, collected program data, and conducted focus groups with residents and mentors. The study sought to provide preliminary information early in the implementation of the programs on how well they were preparing teachers and principals, where the teachers and principals were getting jobs after completing the programs, whether the programs were improving diversity, and how they could be improved.
Four key findings emerged from the study. First, recruiting diverse candidates was difficult. Teacher residents were mostly White, although more than a third of participants in one of the programs were people of color. Principal residents were more diverse. Second, for five of the six programs with available employment data, at least half of the residents were hired in high-need districts after completing the programs. Third, residents and mentors felt the residents were prepared for most teaching or school leadership responsibilities, although principal mentors felt some principal residents were not as well prepared. Finally, program staff, residents, and mentors described several lessons learned, including that communication and the balance of the time commitment between the coursework and the residency could be improved.
The findings will inform PDE's plans for future grants and help the funded programs improve. The findings may also be relevant to other states, districts, or preparation programs that are developing residency programs.