In 2003, over half of Boston Public Schools' (BPS) new teachers were leaving within three years. The financial implications — $3 million in total teacher replacement costs — constituted a considerable budgetary crisis. The district also faced severe shortages in the high-need areas of math, science, special education, and teachers of English language learners. The ramifications for BPS students were enormous: more than two-thirds had not demonstrated academic proficiency and were performing at a level well beneath their peers in other districts. Furthermore, Boston faced the additional challenge of diversifying its teaching force: while 86 percent of BPS students were children of color, three out of every five teachers were white.
The Boston Teacher Residency Program (BTR) was developed in response to the district's desire to recruit and prepare its own teachers. However, unlike other urban districts, BPS did not face a pure teacher shortage — there were more applicants than positions — and the city had no lack of teacher training programs. But, BPS did face a critical shortage of teachers of color, candidates for the high-needs areas of math, science, ESL, and special education, and candidates who were likely to remain in the district long-term.
BTR makes K-12 classrooms, rather than the academy, the locus of teacher preparation. BTR selectively recruits talented people from diverse backgrounds who want to be urban teachers in high-need areas. These aspiring teachers spend a full year working with a mentor in a BPS classroom. Residents earn an Initial Teacher License in their primary content area, credit toward dual licensure in special education and ESL, and a master’s degree in education. Residents receive a living stipend and health insurance and incur no cost for the degree or licensure; in return, they commit to teach for at least three years in BPS. BTR continues to support its graduates for these three years and beyond, helping them develop from novice teacher to teacher-leader with the goal of building a critical mass of like-minded, effective educators equipped to bolster efforts to improve the schools and district.
Nine years after its inception, BTR has prepared over 400 teachers and 87 percent of them are still teaching. Half of BTR graduates are people of color, over half of secondary school graduates teach math and science, and 37 percent teach special education or ESL.
President Obama recently highlighted the program as a model for recruitment and preparation of high-quality teachers. The federal Teacher Quality Partnership grant program — through which BTR was awarded a five-year, multimillion dollar grant to expand and deepen programming — was developed to replicate the residency model nationally. In 2007, BTR cofounded Urban Teacher Residency United to further develop a national campaign in support of urban teacher residency programs and to assist in their implementation. Teacher residencies are now being replicated in more than 20 sites across the U.S.