In New Mexico, 40 to 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years, but research from one of the state’s districts shows that teacher residency programs offer a promising solution, with a three-year retention rate of 80 to 93 percent.
To help address teacher turnover challenges, Prepared To Teach at Bank Street College partnered with policymakers, teacher preparation providers, and school leaders in New Mexico to strengthen and expand quality educator preparation through the development of affordable and sustainable teacher residency programs that prepare educators for the classroom.
As noted in a report by Prepared To Teach on this work titled A Path to Equity: Solving New Mexico’s Teacher Turnover Challenges, teacher residencies in which aspiring teachers work alongside a mentor teacher for a year benefit the education system in several ways. This includes reduced disciplinary referrals among students in the residency year, stronger novice teachers, improved teacher retention, cost savings from reduced turnover, and a more experienced workforce with stronger outcomes for students.
“Teacher retention—and teacher quality—start with educator preparation,” said Karen DeMoss, Executive Director, Prepared To Teach. “We are inspired by the residency work in New Mexico that now includes eight funded residency programs and by the shared commitment among our partners to building sustainable high-quality pathways that ensure all students are taught by well-prepared teachers.”
Beginning in 2015, Prepared To Teach began to work closely with the University of New Mexico, the Albuquerque Public School District, and the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, which led to the 2017 formation of a new residency pathway called the Albuquerque Teacher Residency Partnership. The program began with start-up funds, and the district invested sustainable dollars the following year—a significant district investment in teacher residencies compared to other districts across the nation.
Through Prepared To Teach’s Communities of Practice series in 2020, in which groups of participants from pre-K–12 schools and preparation programs met virtually to explore how to build, grow, and strengthen residencies, the network in New Mexico expanded. During the following year, the team collaborated with preparation programs, local funders, union leaders, and state legislative staff to discuss how funded residencies could help solve teacher shortages and strengthen instruction. These conversations were part of the discussions that led to the passage of House Bill 13, which provides a stipend of $35,000 per year for every teaching resident in the state, not for just those in programs that received grants through a competitive award process.
“Sustainable teacher residencies are within reach through collaboration that co-designs programs based on constituents’ varied needs,” said DeMoss, whose philosophy derives from bright spot analysis, an approach to solving problems that highlights positive practices, and diffusion innovation models, a framework for sharing new ideas. Diffusing local innovations is “a profoundly powerful way not only to make change but to honor the good work educators do,” DeMoss added.
Currently, the Prepared To Teach team is partnering with the New Mexico Public Education Department to lead a community of practice that surfaces and shares innovations across the eight funded residency programs in the state.
Additionally, Prepared To Teach is developing a 12-part series to support new partners in their residency designs for their next rounds of funding.
“We look forward to continuing to support preparation programs and their district partnerships across the nation in designing new, more affordable and sustainable teacher residency models,” said DeMoss.
To learn more about this work, visit bankstreet.edu/prepared-to-teach.