In November, Clemson’s College of Education introduced South Carolina’s first university-led teacher residency program. The program is centered around the college’s new combined degree option for undergraduate education students that replaces student teaching in a student’s final undergraduate semester with graduate education classes. The fifth year is comprised of a year-long teacher residency.
The residency program, housed within the Eugene T. Moore School of Education, will see its graduates emerge after five years with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education as well as an extended, year-long student teaching experience. According to George J. Petersen, founding dean of the College of Education, this degree option better prepares teachers and aligns with the most successful efforts at educational reform to prepare and retain classroom-ready teachers.
“When it comes to reforming education, innovation is key,” Petersen said.“Research has shown that extending time in the classroom provides a more comprehensive foundation and inspires mastery and self-confidence. It also keeps budding teachers in their classrooms long after graduation.”
Petersen said numbers related to teacher attrition aren’t going to get better without an innovative approach. The negative effects of teacher shortfalls are only compounded by high teacher turnover, which causes problems for schools across the state. In addition to being expensive, it causes a loss of institutional knowledge, school capacity building and consistent teamwork among teachers across grade levels.
Whereas traditional student teaching provides a snapshot, teacher residencies give students the whole picture of teaching as a career. This is proven in other states with similar programs where teacher retention rose to as high as 90 percent over three years.
Petersen said the development of an Upstate pilot program is only the first step in a campaign he hopes to expand to the Lowcountry and across the state to reach areas hardest hit by teacher attrition and lacking student outcomes.
Jeff Marshall, chair of Clemson’s teaching and learning department, said college leadership and district representatives are hard at work fleshing out the master teacher selection process and the teacher resident-school district matching process. They also plan to develop an approach to research and ongoing evaluation of the program.
“The faculty and districts don’t want to just hope this will make a difference,” Marshall said. “We want to be able to measure this program’s impact with hard data that shows we’re making a positive impact on teachers and, more importantly, on students.”