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Bridging the gap: Comparing teacher residency programs to traditional teacher preparation

Two teacher standing in front of a class co-teaching.

Like other states across the country, New York faces a persistent teacher shortage, prompting K-12 school districts and universities to explore innovative solutions to recruit, hire and retain highly skilled educators. One such solution is teacher residency programs. 

Kevin Meuwissen, teaching and curriculum program chair at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education, describes how graduate-level teacher residencies share some characteristics with medical residencies. 

“In these programs, residents take courses and work alongside experienced mentor teachers for a full school year, providing a more stable, immersive, and supportive experience than traditional student teaching rotations. They also receive financial support in the form of tuition benefits and living-expense stipends, which significantly softens costs as a barrier to entering the profession. They’re ideal opportunities for recent graduates, career changers, uncertified teachers and assistants already working in schools, seeking to become certified educators.”

Both traditional teacher education programs and teacher residency programs include coursework and classroom teaching experience, but teacher residencies stand out due to their array of advantages.

Discover the difference

Teacher residency programs add social and educational value for all who are involved in them, and it does so not by watering down teacher education but by making it more affordable, more powerful and more responsive to the community’s needs. 

Emerging teacher residency programs, like those at the University of Rochester, immerse aspiring educators in schools from the start, working as paid co-teaching mentees while concurrently completing graduate courses within a community of residents. This allows cohorts of new teachers to bring what they learn in their courses into the field and vice versa.

“We know that stable networks of learners and teacher educators are vitally important for developing beginning teachers’ professional mindsets, knowledge and practices,” adds Meuwissen. “A collaborative approach in a supportive learning environment builds a caring community and shared knowledge among faculty, staff, school-based educators and resident colleagues, contributing to powerful hands-on experience and a smoother transition into the teaching profession.” 

Addressing the nationwide teacher shortage

 In New York State, officials anticipate a demand for 180,000 new teachers over the next decade. Addressing the teacher shortage is a crucial need; and the University of Rochester's teacher residency programs, funded by a multimillion-dollar grant from the New York State Department of Labor’s Empire State Teacher Residency Program, are designed to meet that demand. 

Programs like the ROC Urban Teaching Fellows Program and the Monroe Regional Teacher Residency Consortium aim to address key challenges K-12 schools and teacher education programs face, providing an intensive, supportive and practice-focused approach to teacher education that incentivizes entry into the field and connects beginning teachers directly to local school communities where their services and expertise are needed most.

Research on teacher residencies suggests that they improve access to and retention in teacher education programs and effective practice during teachers’ novice years, contributing to long-term stability and student learning gains in schools. The Warner School supports residents with guaranteed scholarships of 65 percent tuition, $15,000 in additional tuition support and a minimum $20,000 annual stipend for living expenses. Tailored professional development and mentorship aligned with the specific assets and challenges of local schools further enhance the effectiveness of these programs. Additionally, residents who are successful program completers have a unique edge in consideration for employment at partnering schools upon program completion. 

“Teacher residencies play a crucial role in building a more sustainable and effective education system and mitigating the nationwide teacher shortage,” Meuwissen says. “As education continues to evolve, integrating residency programs with traditional models can shape a new generation of highly skilled and resilient teachers.”

Take the next step

For those interested in pursuing a teacher residency program like the Warner School's ROC Urban Teaching Fellows Program or the Monroe Regional Teacher Residency Consortium, applications are open to anyone with a bachelor's degree and the required New York State pre-requisites for certification. If you’re interested in a residency-based master’s degree program like the Warner School’s, which leads to initial state certification in the resident’s area of specialization, consider contacting an admissions representative or program chair for more information and to discuss any questions before enrolling.