Beginning educators who participate in teaching residency programs (TRPs) are more likely to remain in the same school district than teachers trained through other programs, according to research from the U.S. Department of Education (ED).
A new report from ED’s National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) examines the retention rates of new teachers enrolled in TRPs funded through ED’s Teacher Quality Partnership grants. Teachers trained through TRPs pursue graduate-level course work while completing supervised year-long fieldwork experiences in high-need districts where the prospective teachers will work after graduation. Teaching residents work under experienced full-time classroom teachers during their field placements and receive additional on-the-job induction support during their first two years as certified classroom teachers.
NCEE tracked 377 TRP teachers and a comparison group of 376 non-TRP beginning educators who all were first- or second-year teachers during School Year (SY) 2011–12. By fall 2013, 82 percent of TRP teachers remained in the same school district, compared to 72 percent of other novice teachers, according to the report New Findings on the Retention of Novice Teachers from Teaching Residency Programs. The greatest difference in retention rates occurred among those who were first-year teachers during SY 2011–12, the report notes. Among that cohort, 81 percent of TRP teachers remained in their original districts by 2013, compared to only 66 percent of non-TRP educators.
Meanwhile, TRP and non-TRP educators are equally likely to remain in their original schools three to four years into their teaching careers, the report finds. By fall 2013, 62 percent of TRP teachers and 60 percent of non-TRP teachers still worked at the same school, a difference that is not statistically significant, according to the report. The report does not find any statistically significant differences in school retention rates within the specific cohorts either.
Residency program teachers who changed schools generally joined schools that had similar proportions of Latino students and students from low-income families as their original schools, the report finds. But the new schools that TRP educators joined typically had lower percentages of African American students and demonstrated higher academic achievement than their previous schools. Among TRP teachers who changed schools, 86 percent moved to schools that qualified as “high need” based on family income guidelines outlined in ED’s Teacher Quality Partnership grant requirements. In fact, on average, TRP teachers moved from schools where 82 percent of students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch to schools where roughly 79 percent of students qualified for the federal lunch program, not a statistically significant difference, the report notes.
The differences in other school characteristics, however, were more profound. The average percentage of African American students was 9 percentage points lower in the TRP teachers’ new schools than in their previous ones, the report finds. Furthermore, the new schools generally had higher percentages of students who excelled on state tests. In the TRP teachers’ new schools, the average share of students scoring proficient or better on state math tests was about 9 percentage points higher and the proportion reaching that level on state reading tests was about 10 percentage points higher than in their old schools, the report states. The report does not find any statistically significant differences between the schools non-TRP teachers left and the ones they joined.
“Since racial/ethnic composition, student performance, and lower family income are all factors associated with high need in schools, we are left to conclude that whether mobile TRP teachers moved to schools that were more or less needy depends on how one chooses to measure need,” the report states.
Although the results from the NCEE study show promising retention rates for educators enrolled in TRPs, the study’s overall sample size is small. Furthermore, factors beyond the scope of the study’s analysis also potentially could have impacted whether a TRP or non-TRP teacher left a given district or classroom, the report notes. Consequently, the researchers caution against drawing any direct conclusions from their findings about the effectiveness of TRPs. “TRP and non-TRP teachers’ working conditions may differ in ways not captured by variables in our analyses,” the report says. “Comparisons between TRP and non-TRP teachers are therefore provided for context, and do not represent estimates of the impact of TRPs on teacher retention rates.”
As Straight A’s reported earlier this year, only 17 percent of new teachers nationally leave the profession within five years—a much lower attrition rate than previously believed. Nonetheless, more than half a million teachers across all experience levels still changed schools or left the profession during SY 2012–13, the most recent year for which data is available. Teacher turnover costs the nation as much as $2.2 billion in recruitment and replacement costs each year as well as losses of institutional knowledge and stability in the teacher workforce, particularly in schools serving students with the highest needs. Whether TRPs impact new teacher retention directly is not clear from the NCEE study. But as an Alliance report notes, research shows a positive effect on retention among new teachers who experience comprehensive induction programs. Furthermore, programs that provide novice educators with multiple supports, including high-quality mentoring, common planning time with other teachers, intense professional development, and support from school leaders, show the greatest impact.
The NCEE report New Findings on the Retention of Novice Teachers from Teaching Residency Programs is available at http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20154015/.