Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, the Arizona Department of Education and Northern Arizona University announced today the creation of the Arizona Teacher Residency, a first-of-its-kind graduate program in Arizona modeled after medical residencies, to help recruit, prepare, support and retain K-12 teachers. The two-year program will provide aspiring teachers with in-classroom experience, living stipends, a master’s degree and a job at a partnering school district.
The Arizona Department of Education awarded the Arizona K12 Center at Northern Arizona University with a $5 million grant from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to design, launch and expand the Arizona Teacher Residency in response to the state’s teacher shortage and high teacher turnover rate.
Hoffman spoke about the need and potential for this program at a press conference Monday at Encanto Elementary School in Phoenix.
“Through this extended fieldwork and the master’s degree coursework that revolves around this experience, residents truly learn what it means to develop and sustain themselves as teachers,” Hoffman said. “As a result, residencies have a strong track record of advancing teacher retention, and student achievement, too. Now is the time to establish a teacher residency program as another meaningful solution to addressing our teacher shortage.”
The Arizona Teacher Residency is a two-year program that prepares recent college graduates from any degree program and mid-career switchers to be effective classroom teachers. The program begins with a two-week summer institute, followed by a year of in-school apprenticeship under a supervising teacher before they become the teacher-of-record in the program’s second year. Residents will complete graduate coursework throughout the two years and, upon completion, receive a master’s degree from NAU. Along with this highly subsidized master’s degree, residents receive a living stipend during the residency year and receive a salary from the district during the year as the teacher-of-record. In exchange, residents commit to serving in partner districts for at least three years beyond their residency year.
The Arizona Teacher Residency will begin accepting applications this winter with residents beginning the program in summer 2022. In its first year, the Arizona Teacher Residency will partner with Title 1 elementary school districts in the Phoenix area with plans to expand to high schools and rural areas in the coming years.
NAU President José Luis Cruz Rivera addressed the power education has to transform our state.
“Access to education is the great equalizer in mobility, and a high-quality teacher is the largest influence in any child’s educational achievement,” he said. “NAU is proud to build on the accomplishments of diversifying our teaching force and attracting individuals to this wonderful profession by adding the teacher residency program through the grant provided by the Arizona Department of Education today.”
Teacher residencies are a strong model for boosting teacher retention. According to the Learning Policy Institute, 70 to 80 percent of residency graduates are still in the classroom after five years. Teacher residencies also successfully recruit a more racially diverse teaching force. While 80 percent of the nation’s teachers are white, 62 percent of residents affiliated with the National Center for Teacher Residencies identify as people of color. Teacher residencies also boost student achievement. A study of the Boston Teacher Residency found that over time, graduates of the program advance student achievement more than their counterparts from other programs.
The Arizona K12 Center at Northern Arizona University will provide additional professional learning opportunities and support to residents and continue that support with new teacher induction and mentoring opportunities beyond the residency’s two years.
“What will set the Arizona Teacher Residency apart from others is the involvement of the Arizona K12 Center,” said Kathy Wiebke, executive director of the Arizona K12 Center. “Residents will have access to highly trained and effective instructional mentors to help support them. Once they graduate, they will continue to have the support of the Arizona K12 Center, including professional learning focused on high-leverage practices and a community of exceptional teachers.”
Victoria Theisen-Homer is the founding director of the Arizona Teacher Residency as a part of the Arizona K12 Center at Northern Arizona University. Theisen-Homer’s report “A Teacher Chasm in the Grand Canyon State,” published in 2021 and co-funded by Helios Education Foundation and the Arizona Community Foundation, explores the teacher shortage in Arizona and how a teacher residency program can help address some of those challenges. She also is the author of the book Learning to Connect: Relationships, Race, and Teacher Education, which focuses on teacher residencies elsewhere.
“Arizona is ripe for a teacher residency,” Theisen-Homer said. “We need more highly qualified and caring teachers, more teachers who look like their students, and more teachers who will stay in the classroom. We’re really excited to build a program that honors and serves our state’s diverse communities.”
Learn more about the Arizona Teacher Residency at azk12.org/AZTR.