With Arizona leading the nation in teacher turnover, a new report funded by Helios Education Foundation and the Arizona Community Foundation urges the creation of an in-state teacher residency to address the state’s teacher crisis.
The report, “A Teacher Chasm in the Grand Canyon State: Assessing Arizona’s Educational Landscape and Potential of a Teacher Residency” examines the root causes of Arizona’s teacher shortage and demonstrates how a teacher residency program would serve as a critical part of the solution.
Authored by Dr. Victoria Theisen-Homer, a postdoctoral research fellow at Arizona State University’s School of Social Transformation, with the help of research assistants Grace D’Antuono and Celesté Zuñiga, the report draws on interviews with 69 local leaders, a survey of 3,000 undergraduate students in local universities, and interviews with four different teacher residency leaders in other states to make the case for why a residency program would drastically improve the educational landscape in Arizona.
Arizona’s teacher shortage has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 Pandemic. As a result, 1 in 4 classrooms are either vacant or filled by an individual who does not meet the state’s basic qualifications for teaching.
“The implications of the teacher shortage are profound, for both students and for the future of our state, as teachers have more influence over students’ academic and life outcomes than any other school-level factor. A teacher residency program can fill the needs gap to drastically improve how Arizona recruits, prepares, supports, and retains high quality teachers for our local schools,” said Dr. Theisen-Homer.
Most major cities across the country have established successful graduate teacher residency programs to improve the pipeline of teachers. Inspired by the medical residency model, teacher residency programs offer a “third way” to educate teachers that attempts to improve upon the shortcomings of both traditional (university-based) and fast-track alternative post-baccalaureate preparation programs.
These graduate-level programs offer a year of pre-service residency in the classroom of one or more skilled mentors, coupled with integrated coursework toward certification and a Master’s degree. Residents receive free or highly-subsidized tuition and a living stipend in the residency year, and then commit to teaching in local schools for at least 3 years after their residency.
Research indicates that this model promotes teacher diversity, teacher retention, and student achievement, especially in Title-1 schools. However, Phoenix – the fifth largest city in the nation – and Arizona writ large, lack a centralized teacher residency program.
The report has been endorsed by more than 20 individual leaders and 19 different local organizations, from school districts to foundations and community organizations.
In the report, local leaders offer enthusiastic report for the creation of a teacher residency:
- “I hope this gets done, I really do. I hope we do it because we need to do everything we can to continue to produce more highly qualified teachers, not just more teachers.” – Dr. Heather Carter, former State Senator and Executive Vice President of Greater Phoenix Leadership
- “I think it’s feasible. I think there would be interest. Also, it’s necessary, we really don’t have a choice. We have to do it.” – Lloyd Hopkins, Executive Director of the Million Dollar Teacher Project
- “I think a residency would be great. The queue of individuals who want to pull from the residency would be large.” – Petra Pajtas, Chief Operating Officer for BASIS Education
- “A teacher residency program potentially can really help prepare teachers in a way that can help with retention, so I do see that as a benefit.” – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman
- “I think we have a shortage of teachers of color and I think we need to do everything we can to incentivize students of color to become teachers. If that means debt free college and debt free teacher prep, then I think that is a good investment for our state.” – Christine Burton, Co-Founder of the Burton Family Foundation
“Today’s students are tomorrow’s citizens and employees. For their future success and the success of our state, the time for strategic action is now. A teacher residency program is a proven model to train and retain talent in the classroom and should be a priority for the state,” said Dr. Theisen-Homer.
In the coming months, Dr. Theisen-Homer will continue to work to build support for the creation of a residency program in Arizona with the hopes of being able to pilot one in the next couple years.
The full report launched on the Arizona Community Foundation’s Research page and is available at: https://www.azfoundation.org/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/FINAL%20Teacher%20Chasm%20in%20Grand%20Canyon.pdf
 Education Resource Strategies. (2018). Arizona State Funding Project: Addressing the Teacher Labor Market Challenge. Arizona Community Foundation. https://www.azfoundation.org/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/ACF_TeacherLaborMarket2018-0910_14x8.5-Report-PR.pdf
 Sanders, W. L., & Rivers, J.C. (1996). Cumulative and residual effects of teachers on future student academic achievement. University of Tennessee Value-Added Research and Assessment Center. https://www.beteronderwijsnederland.nl/files/cumulative%20and%20residual%20effects%20of%20teachers.pdf
 Berry, B., Montgomery, D., Curtis, R., Hernandez, M., Wurtzel, J., & Snyder, J. D. (2008). Creating and Sustaining Urban teacher residencies: A new way to recruit, prepare, develop, and retain effective teachers in high-needs districts. Aspen Institute. https://www.aspeninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/files/content/docs/education/VUEARTICLEONUTR.PDF
 Guha, R., Hyler, M. E. & Darling-Hammond, L. (2016, September 15). The Teacher Residency: An Innovative Model for Preparing Teachers. Learning Policy Institute: https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/teacher-residency; Papay, J. P., West, M. R., Fullerton, J. B., & Kane, T. J. (2012). Does an urban teacher residency increase student achievement? Early evidence from Boston. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 34(4), 413-434. https://doi.org/10.3102/0162373712454328