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Boston Teacher Residency: Early Evidence of Effectiveness

Thu, April 27, 12:00 to 1:30pm, Grand Hyatt San Antonio, Floor: Second Floor, Lone Star Ballroom Salon A


As teacher shortages have grown in school systems across the country, discussions of how to recruit and retain high-quality teachers continue to draw attention in policy circles. Although teacher retirement contributes to some teacher attrition, the primary cause of shortages is the “leaky bucket” of teacher turnover (Ingersoll, 2004). In these conversations, teacher preparation has once again entered the spotlight, as policymakers seek to determine how best to train prospective educators to support the development and retention of effective teachers. Newly emerging teacher residency programs seek to address these problems, offering an innovative approach to recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers for hard-to-staff schools.

This study focuses on a multi-year analysis of the Boston Teacher Residency (BTR) program. One of the country’s first teacher residencies, the BTR was founded in 2003 to “recruit, prepare, and sustain excellent teachers” (Solomon, 2009). Arising from a partnership between the Boston Plan for Excellence and the Boston Public School(BPS) system, it was designed to address three challenges facing BPS:
1. Attracting teachers in a specific hard-to-staff subject areas (such as math, science, special education, and teachers of English Language Learners);
2. Helping the district diversify its teaching force; and
3. Reducing the turnover of new teachers.

This paper presents results from what remains one of the only quantitative analyses of a teacher residency program (author citation, 2012). Using administrative data provided by Boston Public Schools on 296 BTR graduates, this study examined whether the program was achieving its goals. BTR represents an important pathway for teachers entering the BPS – since 2008-09, the program has accounted for approximately one-third of all new teachers in the district.

Findings show that BTR graduates were more likely to fill math and science classrooms than other BPS teachers (and other BPS first year teachers) and were more racially and ethnically diverse than other Boston school teachers hired between 2004 and 201. For example, by 2009-2010, approximately 62% of the district’s new math teachers and 42% of new science teachers came through BTR. Furthermore, BTR teachers are much more likely to stay in the district than other newly-hired BPS teachers; 25% of BTR teachers leave by year five compared to 50% of other new teachers. In these respects, BTR appears to be achieving its goals.

The program also seeks to produce graduates who are effective classroom teachers. Here, the evidence is more mixed. Initially BTR teachers are less effective than other BPS teaches in mathematics (no difference in ELA). However, by years four and five, BTR graduates are substantially more effective than other BPS teachers with similar experience. Given that BTR graduates also stay in the classroom at much greater rates, there is some evidence that the overall impact of the program on student achievement is positive.