A new teacher preparation program is coming to town with a focus on not only preparing highly qualified teachers, but also retaining them.
In its inaugural year, the Philadelphia Teacher Residency (PTR) program will guide 10 aspiring math teachers through a rigorous practicum experience and specially designed coursework, ending with a promise to be hired by the District in fall 2010. In return, “residents” commit to teach in Philadelphia public schools for at least three years.
The three-year teaching commitment is not the program’s only unique characteristic. Its approach to preparing teachers emphasizes what PTR Director Diana Campbell calls "the blending of theory and practice."
The practicum is at the center of the experience. Teaching mentors, selected by the program’s staff, are required to participate in a rigorous training process that involves high levels of supervision and feedback over an entire school year. Coursework is deliberately designed to complement residents’ experience at the school where they are placed. This tight integration between theory and practice is one of the model’s hallmarks.
Recruitment goals also set the model apart. Residency programs are explicitly established to serve the needs of particular school districts. As a result, they only recruit candidates to fill high-needs areas their district identifies.
For Philadelphia, this means starting with math. PTR’s full-time recruitment director is seeking applicants who are math professionals, have experience with children, are committed to Philadelphia, and, in Campbell’s words, have "a burning desire to teach." PTR is particularly interested in recruiting African American and Latino teachers.
The Urban Teacher Residency (UTR) model on which PTR is based has attracted attention nationwide. President Obama called for the creation of 200 such programs across the country. While UTRs have not been evaluated for effects on student achievement, a study conducted by the Aspen Institute and the Center for Teaching Quality found that retention of graduates from UTR programs in both Boston and Chicago was above 90 percent after 3 years.
While the model is more expensive than programs that only provide summer training, the Aspen Institute report indicates that much of the money is recouped through higher rates of retention.
The idea to create a Philadelphia-based residency program came from a working group of the Philadelphia Education Fund’s Math and Science Coalition.
Applications are being accepted and the PTR staff is working with the District, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and the University of Pennsylvania to launch the program this summer.
Visit www.philaedfund.org/ptr/ for information.