With Thoughtful Design, Teacher Residencies Can Benefit from New Department of Labor Funding Opportunities
The U.S. Department of Labor’s recent approval of teaching as an apprenticeable field offers an exciting opportunity for teacher preparation. Programs are now eligible to become Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs) — federally recognized career pathways that offer paid on-the-job training linked with coursework, culminating in credentials for practice. As an apprenticeable field, preparation programs now have a chance to harness some of the financial resources available to RAPs in service of developing a more diverse, well-prepared teaching force.
The opportunity is not without risks, though. Without attention to what we know high-quality preparation looks like, it’s possible that RAPs could be designed in ways that meet Department of Labor guidelines but that miss features important to education.
Unlike many other professionals such as engineers or pharmacists, teachers cannot put a class on pause and leave the room to seek advice from a supervisor or mentor about how to address a particular learning situation. Teachers also lead classes of students instead of working with individual clients, meaning they are tasked with meeting the needs of many students at the same time.
The best preparation models — teacher residencies — are designed with these realities in mind. Residencies provide aspiring teachers a full year of co-placement with accomplished mentor teachers until they have completed all credentialing work and demonstrated competence across all standards for performance necessary to ensure their readiness to practice.
Outcome data on well-designed, funded teacher residencies show benefits for teachers, schools, and communities. Up to 90 percent of individuals prepared through these pathways remain in their schools in their third year, and 80 percent remain in the district in their fifth year. Residency graduates are also twice as likely to come from underrepresented groups.
Prepared To Teach has long advocated for districts and programs to collaborate on mutually beneficial paid teacher residencies that remove financial barriers to excellent preparation so that more diverse, qualified students can afford to enter the profession and go on to teach — and stay — in the partnering district. We believe RAPs can and should be designed to grow these promising preparation pathways.
The structural similarities between teacher residencies and apprenticeships make them a natural match — with some caveats. As we detail in a recent brief, some of the assumptions behind RAPs will not necessarily translate into high-quality preparation without intentional efforts on the part of programs, state education departments, and Department of Labor representatives. For example, in strong residencies, coursework is integrated with clinical placements, not delivered in a disconnected way — something that could be allowable in a RAP. Assessment of competency is applied and holistic to a degree that RAP competencies may not always be. Ongoing collaboration between programs and districts is also key.
These and other quality features of strong teacher preparation can absolutely be incorporated into RAPs. Because teacher residencies are already aligned to local workforce needs and include features that meet Department of Labor guidelines, like year-long “on-the-job training,” residency partnerships can and should move quickly to register programs as RAPs, so they are eligible to access federal supports. Some in our network have already begun the process and others are rallying their local stakeholders to build residency RAPs. As Prepared To Teach supports residency partnerships across the country applying for RAPs, we have been heartened by partners’ focus on quality, alignment, and clarity of their Residency RAP visions to develop a diverse, well-prepared teacher workforce through apprenticeships.
RAPs by definition are paid. Recognizing that aspiring teachers need and deserve to be paid during their clinical practice is a step forward. If we move quickly and plan strategically, RAPs can bring more resources to education and contribute to a diverse, committed teacher workforce.
By Karen DeMoss, Executive Director of Prepared To Teach, Bank Street College of Education