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Standards for Teacher 'Residency' Programs

Urban Teacher Residency United, a group that provides technical assistance to a network of teacher-residency programs, released a detailed set of standards that flesh out the core aspects of the residency approach to teacher training.

You'll recall that the teacher residency is a new kind of training model in which student-teachers have a year-long apprenticeship in an urban school setting alongside a trained mentor. There's coursework provided by a partner university, but that coursework takes a bit of a backseat compared to the field experience. Think of it a bit like the inverse of the typical ed. school program, which has a lot of coursework and a student-teaching experience of perhaps 10-14 weeks.

Reading over these standards, it's clear that this is serious stuff. There are over 70 pages, and they are quite detailed about all the aspects of a residency, e.g., how a partnership with a school district or university looks, how mentors are selected, how the programs are evaluated, and so forth.

This degree of specificity makes a certain amount of sense, when you consider the teacher-preparation field in general. Trying to define the key features of a traditional college program or even an alternative-route program is more or less an exercise in frustration. There are some basic similarities—the former tend to have student-teaching before licensure, while the latter permit teachers to begin working full time as they take coursework, for instance. But beyond that, there is a ton of variation in coursework required and other aspects of the programs.

A bunch of new residency programs won grants through the Department of Education's teacher-quality partnerships grant program. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, meanwhile, is due to release recommendations next month from a panel it commissioned to study student-teaching. All signs suggest that it will further embrace aspects of the residency approach. (NCATE is already pushing for that through a recent redesign of its own standards.)

Endorsing the residency approach is one thing, but there are still some hefty implications for the larger teacher ed. field. Will it be responsive to the idea of less emphasis on coursework, on the collection of things like value-added data and other outcomes-based measures? Indeed, what are the implications for national accreditation, now that NCATE and a second accrediting body are going to merge?

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