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Residency program seeks to retain teachers in St. Louis

March 12, 2018 GMT

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Leaders at St. Louis Public Schools hope a new program will address the long-standing problem of teachers leaving the district.

District leaders have partnered with St. Louis Teacher Residency, an organization formed last year to recruit, educate, train and embed new teachers within hard-to-staff public schools, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports .


School leaders say many first-year teachers aren’t adequately prepared. It doesn’t help that teachers with the least experience are often more likely to be placed in the most challenging schools, where high teacher turnover and low academic performance are common.

“I can tell you, we lose so many people within the first quarter just on the job, like even the first 30 days on the job, because they’re not ready,” said Haliday Douglas, the district’s director of talent strategy and management. “Sometimes they’re not ready in terms of skill set, sometimes in terms of mindset.”

More than two dozen teacher-residency programs exist nationwide. The district in East St. Louis, Illinois, also is starting a teacher residency, in partnership with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Residency candidates have bachelor’s degrees but want to earn teaching certificates. Many are switching careers.

“We need to make sure we’re giving teachers more authentic experiences in the classroom,” said Laura Vilines, founder and executive director of the St. Louis Teacher Residency and a former leader of a charter school in Nashville, Tennessee.

St. Louis residency candidates spend their first year teaching four days a week under the guidance of a mentor teacher who is coached and paid for the role. Residency candidates spend the fifth day each week taking classes. The residency candidates become full-time teachers in their second year.

Candidates pay nothing for the program their first year and receive an $18,000 stipend and benefits. They begin paying back the costs for the program in their second year. Participants commit to teach in the district for at least three years.

A study by the Learning Policy Institute shows that residency programs produce teachers who are more likely to stay. By their third year, 80 percent to 95 percent of teacher residency graduates are still working in the district, compared to 40 percent to 75 percent for non-residency teachers.


The St. Louis school district loses roughly half of its beginning teachers by the time they reach year five.

The St. Louis residency set goals of recruiting 50 percent teachers of color and about 80 percent second-career candidates. It is on track to meet both goals.

Jeff Konkel, 44, who worked for a couple of decades in public relations, said he can afford to take a pay cut to become a teacher.

“I think I have the level of patience and compassion that the job would require that I probably didn’t have when I was first out of school,” Konkel said.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch,