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Study Will Examine New Teacher Residencies

Pioneered in places such as Boston, Chicago, and Denver, "residency" programs are becoming the hot thing in teacher training. It has helped, of course, that the U.S. Department of Education has backed the approach, awarding $43 million last fall in teacher-preparation grants that helped support the model, which bases training on a yearlong clinical practicum for teachers.

Now comes word of an ambitious new study that is aimed at determining whether teachers trained through residency programs do as well as, or better than, teachers prepared in the usual ways. Mathematica, a research group based in Princeton, N.J., announced yesterday that it had won a $4 million grant from the department's Institute of Education Sciences to study the new teacher-residency programs forming now as a result of the grants in districts across the nation.

Phil Gleason, the study director, says the research plan is for schools to randomly assign students to either teacher-residents or traditionally trained teachers in the same schools, grades, and subjects. The researchers will then follow all the teachers for two years and compare the gains that their students make from fall to spring of each year.

A second part of the study will also compare the retention rates for teachers in the new programs with those of other novice teachers. Researchers will also look at who joins these programs and how those recruits may differ, or not, from other teachers.

Answers to these sorts of questions are much needed. Apart from a study of Boston's teacher-residency program by Tom Kane at Harvard, there is zero research on this model. (As far as I know, anyway.) Unfortunately, the first report from this experiment is not due until the fall of 2013.

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