Sustainable Funding Project Leads Panel Discussion on Funding Strategies for Teacher Residencies

On September 28, the Sustainable Funding Project (SFP) welcomed a full house of educators, policymakers, and community stakeholders to the “Hidden in Plain Sight: Possibilities for Funding High-Quality Teacher Preparation” panel discussion to explore strategies for establishing yearlong co-teaching residencies for aspiring teachers.

Designed to provide an opportunity for educators and thought leaders to take a closer look at how high-quality, sustainable teacher residencies can support a healthy educational ecosystem, the event brought together local and national advocates for an in-depth discussion about specific school-level funding strategies that, when implemented, can help realize this important goal.

Karen DeMoss presents Hidden in Plain Sight, a report about funding teacher residencies

“Residencies feel out of reach for most people because we haven’t, as a system, figured out the ways to fund them—either through an unwillingness to appropriate the funding that’s needed or a lack of creativity around how to use existing funds,” said Shael Polakow-Suransky, GSE ’00, President of Bank Street College, in his introductory remarks. “Today’s conversations will focus on actual solutions to this problem. They are not too hard to find and they are legitimately doable with existing resources within school systems and at the state level.

At the event, Karen DeMoss, Director of the Sustainable Funding Project, and Brigid Fallon, Program Analyst for the Sustainable Funding Project, introduced two new reports—“Clearing the Path: Redesigning Teacher Preparation for the Public Good” and “Investing in Residencies, Improving Schools: How Principals Can Fund Better Teaching and Learning”—to set the stage for a broader discussion on how to effectively fund high-quality teacher preparation programs, including stipends or salaries.

Referencing the “Clearing the Path” report, DeMoss kicked off the event by sharing lessons learned from early innovators who have effectively implemented co-teaching programs and highlighting the key benefits of residencies for aspiring teachers.

DeMoss framed the challenges surrounding high-quality teacher preparation with a compelling metaphor drawn from Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Switch. “Imagine you are riding an elephant, and you want to turn around,” she said. “You have an elephant, a rider, and a path to consider. All three need to be aligned. The elephant has to want to change paths. The rider has to know how to manage the elephant. And the path has to be clear. Some people might think the elephant or the rider is the problem with quality teacher preparation—whether that’s an institution, like schools, districts, or preparation programs, or people, like legislators, educators, or taxpayers. People often think that these ‘elephants and riders’ are the problem. But we don’t. We believe we have a giant rock in the path—the funding problem. It’s a rock in the path that we can move.”

Report presentation of Hidden in Plain Sight, about funding teacher residencies

In her review of the “Investing in Residencies, Improving Schools” report, Fallon examined the feasibility of school-level funding for resident stipends and reviewed how one school, the Bullis Charter School of California, established a highly successful co-teaching program for novice educators. Fallon used the school as a reference point to showcase how principals can help lead the way toward shifting the country to sustainable teacher preparation.

“By establishing strong partnerships with teacher preparation programs, principals can integrate residents into their schools in ways that meet school needs, freeing up dollars that can fund these pre-service teachers. School leaders can really lead the shift in our country towards sustainable, high-quality preparation for all our future teachers,” Fallon said.

During the panel discussion, Wanny Hersey, Founder, and Superintendent of the Bullis Charter School, outlined her school’s approach to establishing a highly effective clinical practice program specifically built to mentor first-year teachers while paying them as associate or co-teachers. She explained the benefits of the Associate Teacher program for the school community.

“There are wonderful benefits for us as a school and for the teacher. Teachers get to become part of a community; they get to learn from mentors. They can teach a lesson in one class and get feedback and redo that lesson with another class. They can learn, reflect, and improve very quickly,” she said. “We’ve found that in using this model, the teachers who have gone through the associate teaching program are the ones that stay the longest in our schools, too.”

In addition to Hersey, panelists included Michael Rebell, Executive Director of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University and adjunct Professor of Law, Columbia Law School; John Henning, Dean of the School of Education at Monmouth University; Gale Sookdeo, National Board Certified Teacher and Improvement Lead for the first National Board Pilot School and District in New York City; Deborah Shanley, Interim Dean of the School of Education, Lehman College, former Dean, Brooklyn College, and Founding Dean of Liberal Arts and Education, Medgar Evers College; and Josh Thomases, Dean, Innovation, Policy and Research, Bank Street College and former Deputy Chief Academic Officer, New York City Department of Education.

Each participant shared insight into the challenges surrounding teacher preparation and ideas on how to make residency pilot programs a reality through assorted financial models and creative problem-solving. Examples included adding substitute teaching days to a stipend for a student pilot program at Monmouth University, documenting a professional learning experience for teacher residencies grounded in five “core propositions” of accomplished teachers for the National Board Council of New York, and a discussion of how the constitutional right of students in many states to have a sound basic education includes the right to a qualified teacher, perhaps offering a legal case for increasing state and federal funding.

According to Shanley, sustaining residency programs requires partnerships, such as New York City’s Leap-to-Teachers program, a joint effort by the New York City Department of Education, the United Federation of Teachers, and the City University of New York. When it comes to finding long-lasting financial structures for residencies, “it’s all about partnerships, not one-size-fits-all solutions. Everybody has to be willing to keep coming to the table,” she said.

The event was followed by a reception with attendees from across New York State and an in-depth conversation about their unique teacher preparation programs. Participants also discussed next steps for SFP and for the New York State Education Department’s Clinical Practice Work Group, a committee established to study research and clinical practice requirements in New York and other states in order to make recommendations to the Board of Regents Higher Education Committee for ways to improve clinical requirements in the state.

“We were pleased to have the opportunity to bring together leaders who are working hard to make more teacher residencies a reality,” said Thomases. “This is a very different conversation. It is focused on the foundational challenges of funding and partnership. The answers we are generating can solve the problem of not only producing better teachers but keeping them longer, too—for stronger school communities and better student outcomes.”

To view the new SFP reports, visit bankstreet.edu/sfpreports.