Since its creation in 2013, the Seattle Teacher Residency (STR) has been in the vanguard of efforts to reimagine teacher preparation in the United States and create novel pathways into the profession.
A case study of STR’s creation and development is now featured in the new book “Teaching Teachers: Changing Paths and Enduring Debates” by James W. Fraser and Lauren Lefty, which explores the growth of new teaching programs since 1986.
Fraser and Lefty argue that three factors help explain this dramatic shift in how teachers are trained: an ethos that market forces were the solution to social problems; long-term dissatisfaction with the inadequacies of university-based teacher education; and the frustration of school superintendents with teachers themselves, who can seem both underprepared and too quick to challenge established policy. Surveying which programs are effective and which are not, this book also examines the impact of for-profit teacher training in the classroom.
Responding to a desire to strengthen a pipeline of well-prepared and diverse teachers into the district, Seattle Public Schools, the local nonprofit Alliance for Education, Seattle Education Association (the district’s teachers union) and University of Washington College of Education came together to create the Seattle Teacher Residency.
Through a 14-month program, residents are trained through a combination of rigorous university-based coursework, a full school year clinical experience, and continued coursework and mentoring experiences. Upon completion of their training, STR graduates make a 5-year commitment to teach in Seattle Public Schools in high need environments.
“STR teachers are known to stay in classrooms longer than their peers, reflect the diversity of their students far more so than the teaching body at large, and achievement data was shown to improve at a higher rate in schools with greater numbers of STR teachers,” Fraser and Lefty write.
The authors note the partnership with UW College of Education was and is another critical asset of the residency’s successful functioning.
“University faculty who participated in the design of the program and who now teach in it are committed to innovation and integration with district programming,” they write. “The university-based partnership likewise ensures that critical theoretical and pedagogical training is not given short shrift in STR’s curriculum, as in some alternative programs where skepticism of the ideas of university-based educators abounds. It also allows instruction to be strongly aligned to classroom practice.”
Fraser and Lefty also note that resident instruction is specifically designed to prepare graduates to teach in the SPS system: “STR’s team of leaders and UW faculty create alignment between the STR curriculum and the SPS vision, to best prepare the residents to teach within the context of Seattle’s schools—making both teachers, teacher educators, and district leaders happy.”
Fraser is a professor of history and education at New York University. He is the author or editor of twelve books, including “Between Church and State: Religion and Public Education in a Multicultural America” and “Teach: A Question of Teaching.” Lauren Lefty is a doctoral candidate in the History of Education program at New York University.
Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications