Does Practice-Based Teacher Preparation Increase Student Achievement? Early Evidence from the Boston Teacher Residency

Teacher-residency programs, which couple
graduate-education coursework with K-12 classroom-teaching experience, have a
certain cachet these days. But do they work? While such programs have for many
years demonstrated higher retention rates among their graduates, this paper
digs into the details of the Boston Teacher Residency (BTR) to see whether
quality is there, too. The upshot: yes, but it takes a while. Using fourth- and
eighth-grade state achievement data, the researchers determined that BTR
graduates are significantly less effective in math during their first couple of
years than are other new teachers (both alternatively certified and
traditionally trained). This pattern held for each of BTR’s seven cohorts. On
the ELA front, BTR teachers performed comparably to other new teachers in their
first couple years. By the fourth and fifth years, however, BTR teachers surpassed
other veteran teachers (of similar or greater experience levels) in both
subjects. What’s more, BTR teachers were more likely to stay with the
profession: The five-year retention rate for program alumni was 24 percentage
points higher than the district average for those hired in 2004-05 and 2006-07.
Looking at input measures (increasing the population of minority teachers and filling
hard-to-staff positions), the residency program fares well, too. Still, the
research came with many caveats, beginning with a very small sample size. As a
preliminary investigation, this paper offered many interesting insights and raises
even more questions—specifically around residency programs’ individual components,
system effects, and costs. So, researchers, have at it!

John P. Papay, Martin R. West, Jon B. Fullerton,
and Thomas J. Kane, Does Practice-Based Teacher Preparation
Increase Student Achievement? Early Evidence from the Boston Teacher Residency

(Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, 2011).

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