In a traditional university teaching program, education majors spend 12 weeks in the last semester of their senior year in a classroom as a student teacher.
But a new program at Clemson University will give education students a more complete picture of what teaching entails through a residency that encompasses an entire school year from start to finish.
The program, funded by a $10 million gift from Darla Moore, is the state’s first university-led teacher residency program.
Research shows teachers who have gone through a residency program feel more prepared and stay in the profession longer. That’s a big deal, because at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, there were 481 teaching vacancies in South Carolina. There was also a 21 percent increase in the rate of teachers not returning to current positions that year. It costs school districts about $18,000 to replace a teacher, said George Petersen, founding dean of the College of Education at Clemson.
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School districts participating in Clemson University’s teacher residency program
Percentage increase in the rate of teachers not returning to current positions in 2016-17
Number of teaching vacancies in South Carolina at the start of the 2016-17 school year
Cost to replace a teacher in South Carolina
Gift from Darla Moore to create an endowment for the teacher residency program at the Eugene T. Moore School of Education
In the teacher residency program, which is optional, student teaching in a student’s final undergraduate semester is replaced with graduate education classes, and the following year is a year-round residency. After five years, students in the residency program have both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in education, as well as an extended yearlong student teaching experience.
“With a teacher residency program, students are better prepared from the very day they start as the teacher of record. They’re better teachers for the students and they stay,” Petersen said.
Jeff Marshall, chair of Clemson’s teaching and learning department, said a lot of teachers leave the field after three to five years. Alternative teacher programs fare even worse, with many teachers leaving after one to two years because they don’t feel well equipped for the job. That goes up to seven to eight years for teachers who graduate from residency programs.
“They feel better prepared for day one,” he said. “Many students who go into education are middle- to upper-middle-class families and succeeded in education themselves. But what do you do with the 20 to 30 to 80 to 90 percent of students in a school who come into class not wanting to be there? That takes time to learn.”
Students in the residency program will gain experience in the school community in which they work, Marshall said. “They’ll understand the bigger picture,” he said.
Clemson is working with seven Upstate school districts: Greenville County; Anderson Districts 1, 3, 4, and 5; Pickens County; and Oconee County. Students in the program will work with master teachers in those districts, Marshall said. The first teacher residents will be placed in those districts in fall 2018.