Managing education Academic Essay

Managing education Academic Essay

Journal of Teacher Education
60(5) 478–
© SAGE Publications 2009
Reprints and permission: http://www.
DOI: 10.1177/0022487109349915
The Boston Teacher Residency:
District-Based Teacher Education
Jesse Solomon1
This article describes an effort to create a coherent teacher recruitment, preparation and induction program in a large urban
school district, based in part on the medical residency model. The article argues for several core principles in the creation
of such a program: a) the program serves the school district, b) the program is structured to blend theory and practice, c)
the program emphasizes the selection, recruitment and support of the mentor teacher and treats the mentors as teacher
educators, d) the program creates an aligned set of induction supports which extend for the first three years of the new
teacher’s career, e) the program treats student achievement as its ultimate outcome.
urban schools, beginning teacher recruitment, teacher preparation, new teacher induction, teacher residencies, teacher
This article describes the Boston Teacher Residency (BTR), a
comprehensive teacher recruitment, preparation, and induction
program created by and housed in an urban school district,
the Boston Public Schools (BPS). By identifying core principles
underlying the design and implementation of BTR
and explicating those principles through descriptions of key
program components, the article argues for an integrated,
district-based approach to teacher education.
In early 2003, a private Boston foundation, Strategic Grant
Partners (SGP), posed a simple question to then BPS
Superintendent Dr. Thomas Payzant: What is a problem
you are unable to fix with the resources you have? Dr. Payzant
answered that pipeline of teachers into the BPS was
not filling the district’s needs. First, although BPS did not
have a teacher shortage in terms of absolute numbers,
the district was not attracting teachers in its areas of highest
need: mathematics, science, special education, and
teachers of English language learners. Second, BPS was
attempting to diversify its teaching force, yet the vast
majority of the applicants were White. Finally, BPS regularly
lost half of its new teachers within their first 3 years.
Dr. Payzant wanted to build the capacity within the district
to recruit, prepare, and induct its own teachers, and
thus yield greater control of its teacher pipeline. These
conversations led to the creation of the Boston Teacher
BTR is an effort by an urban school district to drive teacher
preparation and development, making the district the producer
and not just the consumer of new teachers. The efforts
described in this article all focus on figuring out how to make
such an effort work best for an urban district. BTR draws
on a number of exemplary practices from the field of teacher
education in its program design, many of which will be familiar
to the reader. This article will argue for the efficacy of harnessing
a broad and coherent set of these practices in and for
an urban school district.
Program Overview
BTR’s mission is to recruit, prepare, and sustain excellent
teachers in and for the Boston Public Schools. Since its launch
in 2003, BTR has prepared more than 250 BPS teachers.
BTR is currently preparing 75 teachers per year and plans to
grow to prepare 120 teachers per year, which represents an
estimated 30% of the total teachers Boston hires each year.
BTR locates teacher preparation in classrooms rather than
in the academy. BTR is highly selective and recruits talented
and committed people from diverse backgrounds who want
to be urban teachers. These aspiring teachers, called Teacher
Residents, spend a full school year working with a skilled,
1 Boston Teacher Residency
Corresponding Author:
Jesse Solomon, Boston Teacher Residency
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Solomon 479
experienced Mentor teacher (who is also trained and supported
by BTR) in a BPS classroom 4 days each week. BTR clusters
cohorts of Residents in host schools that have applied to
serve as BTR preparation sites. BTR hires half-time, schoolbased
Site Directors, who are themselves excellent veteran
teachers or instructional coaches, to supervise Residents and
Mentors. Residents participate in a curriculum, tailored to
becoming a teacher in Boston, on Fridays, after school, and
in summer sessions before and after the school year. During
the preparation year, Residents earn a Massachusetts Initial
Teacher License in their primary academic content area, partial
credit toward dual licensure in special education or
English as a Second Language, which they complete the following
year, and a master’s degree in education from the
University of Massachusetts/Boston. During this year, Residents
receive a modest living stipend to help defray living
expenses and incur no cost for the degree or licensure; in
return, they commit to teach for at least 3 years in the BPS.
BTR continues to support its graduates for at least their first
3 years as teacher of record, helping them develop from
novice teacher to teacher-leader with the goal of building a
critical mass of like-minded, effective teachers equipped to
bolster school and district improvement efforts.
In its first seven cohorts, more than half of all BTR Residents
have been people of color and more than half of all
middle and high school Residents teach in the high-needs
areas of mathematics and science. BTR has placed more than
95% of all graduating Residents in BPS teaching jobs. BTR
graduates are being retained at an 86% rate within the
BPS over their first 3 years, compared to a 53% rate overall
for BPS teachers. In a recent survey, principals/headmasters
considered 88% of their BTR-prepared teachers as or more
effective overall than other first-year teachers at their school
and considered the majority (55%) to be “significantly more
In what follows, this article first briefly lays out the
context for the work described herein: (a) the alternative certification
movement, which provides a backdrop for BTR,
and (b) the major influences on the structure of BTR. The
article then describes the organizational and financial structures
underlying BTR, including its relationship with the
BPS, its licensure status and university partnership, its own
internal organizational structure, the program’s financing,
and the financial arrangement for Teacher Residents. The
bulk of the article takes up a set of core principles and uses
descriptions of various program components to illustrate these
principles. The first of these sections describes the importance
of BTR’s positioning as part of and in service to the
BPS; the program’s recruitment and admissions component
is used as an illustration. The second section focuses on BTR’s
blend of theory and practice and details the preparation
component. The third section focuses on the importance of
Residents’ learning alongside an experienced, trained Mentor
teacher. The fourth section focuses on BTR’s belief that
teacher development extends beyond the preparation year
and describes the induction program for graduates. The fifth
and final of these sections makes a case for the centrality
of student achievement in BTR’s work. The article concludes
with some observations about the potential for BTR to serve
as a driver of change in the school district and a call for future
work that closely ties school district improvement and teacher
Alternative Certification Movement
The alternative certification movement in the United States
dates back roughly 25 years. Although it would be a mistake
to characterize the movement as monolithic, and there is no
single definition of alternative certification, the movement
has capitalized on disenchantment with the teacher education
system. Criticisms of university-based teacher education,
including accusations of low admission standards and meaningless
coursework, led to a call for deregulation of pathways
to the classroom. Proponents argue that the way to increase
the flow of qualified teachers into our nation’s classrooms is
to remove as many of the unnecessary barriers that licensure
and university teacher education programs represent. Most
alternative certification programs are characterized by an accelerated
route to the classroom, often consisting of a summer
component before a candidate begins to serve as teacher of
record (Tom, 2000). Nearly one in five new teachers in the
United States now comes through an alternative route. The
evidence on whether alternatively certified teachers are any
better than those who enter through a traditional route is not
conclusive in either direction (Walsh & Jacobs, 2007).
BTR does not position itself as part of the alternative
certification movement. Rather, it is based on a lengthier
apprenticeship model coupled with intense coursework. However,
it is important to see BTR within the context of this
movement because the alternative certification movement has
opened up the field of teacher preparation, allowing a district
to get into the teacher preparation business. The alternative
certification movement arose to question whether teacher
preparation mattered. BTR does not question the need for
preparation, but rather seeks to find better ways to recruit
and prepare the teachers we so desperately need.
Program Influences
Much of what BTR does has been adopted or influenced by
effective teacher education practices. BTR is not based on one
particular model or approach but has drawn on a large variety
of people and practices. This article does not attempt to include
each reference or influence; what follows are just a few of the
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480 Journal of Teacher Education 60(5)
approaches and practices reflected in BTR’s design. A major
influence on the program, as will be obvious to the reader, has
been the Professional Development School movement. BTR
was also influenced early on by the school-based teacher preparation
program at the Shady Hill School in Cambridge, MA.
It has adapted practices such as the Rounds process used at
Clark University in Worcester, MA; the descriptive review
process developed at the Prospect Center in Vermont; and the
critical friends group work pioneered by the Annenberg Institute
and carried on by the National School Reform Faculty. It
is influenced by the ideas and actions of educators like Deborah
Ball, Lisa Delpit, Bob Moses, and many others.
Clinical education traditions in other professions also
influence BTR’s design and practices. Gary Bellow, a lawyer
and Harvard Law School professor who designed and ran a
model clinical program for law students at the Legal Services
Center in Boston, argued for the need to create an environment
that allows for “reflective, self-taught practice in a pressured
real world setting.” He asserted that “students have to learn
to be taught by the experienced without being overwhelmed
by them” (Bellow, 1975). BTR aims to facilitate its Teacher
Residents’ learning in similar ways. The urgent requirements
of the day to day drive Residents’ learning, as they work in the
company of expert practitioners and have room to reflect and
improve individually. The program’s aim is to come to theory
and research through the questions, reflections, and hypotheses
that emerge from practice. The challenge is to capture this
balance and facilitate the constant negotiation and blending
of theory and practice.
Organizational Description
Organizational Structure
From the outset, BTR was created as a BPS program, a relationship
that fundamentally affects the nature of the program.
Rather than viewing Teacher Residents as its clients, BTR
sees the students and families of Boston as its ultimate clients.
This structure changes the way everyone involved with
the program conceptualizes the accountability, incentives,
responsibilities, goals, and possibilities for change associated
with BTR, as well as its everyday workings.
BTR sits in a “one-foot-in-one-foot-out” structure, straddling
the school district and a local nonprofit organization.
BTR was set up to report to BPS’s deputy superintendent for
teaching and learning, at that time Tim Knowles, who had
been instrumental in launching the program. BTR has a formal
contract with the district covering critical issues such as
financing, job placement, and leadership. At the same time,
BTR is housed within the Boston Plan for Excellence (BPE),
Boston’s local public education foundation. Superintendent
Payzant made BPE the fiscal and managing agent of BTR
from its inception. He knew how hard it would be to start
up an organization within the school system’s bureaucracy.
BPE, under the leadership of Ellen Guiney, had for years
served both as a critical friend to the district and as an incubator
for innovation, piloting new ideas for eventual adoption
by the district. This one-foot-in-one-foot-out structure has
been critical in BTR’s development, allowing it to serve as a
district program while remaining flexible enough to experiment
and innovate in its development.
Licensure and University Partnership
In the wake of Massachusetts’s 1993 Education Reform
Act, the state Department of Education deregulated pathways
to teacher licensure, allowing school districts and nonprofit
organizations to serve as licensing agents. The BPS, through
BTR, is an approved Massachusetts teacher preparation program,
having demonstrated alignment with and coverage of
the state standards, just like any university program. As an
approved program, BTR recommends candidates for licensure
directly to the Department of Education. Because of this
authority, BTR has been able to build and tailor its curriculum
to the district’s work and the district’s needs. BTR has
partnered with the Graduate College of Education at the University
of Massachusetts/Boston to enable Residents to earn
a master’s degree through the program. While BTR runs the
full program, BTR and UMass have negotiated a relationship
in which BTR courses are approved by the university
and Residents can earn credit and a degree for successful completion
of the courses.
Internal Structure
BTR is composed of four key departments: (a) Recruitment/
Admissions, (b) Field, (c) Curriculum, and (d) Induction. The
Field department oversees all work in the school placement
sites, primarily through the work of BTR Field Directors
who supervise school-based Site Directors (see the following
section for further description of the Site Director role). The
Curriculum Director oversees the development and implementation
of all coursework, including hiring and supervising
all course instructors. The Induction Director oversees all
support for Residents once they graduate BTR and work as
teachers in the BPS. The Induction Director hires and supervises
school-based coaches and course instructors who work
with program graduates.
As mentioned previously, BTR received an initial grant from
SGP, which supported BTR’s full activities for a start-up
period and the first 2 years of operation. At the time of this
grant, BPS entered into an agreement with SGP and BPE that
gave the school district a 2-year window in which to support
and assess the program. If the district wanted to continue
the program, it committed to contribute an increasing percentage
of the funding over the following years. BPS decided
to continue and expand BTR after the 2-year period, and
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Solomon 481
currently BPS’s commitment is to support half of BTR’s
costs. In addition to BPS’s support, BTR receives support
from government and foundation sources. BTR is an Ameri-
Corps program; Residents receive a modest living stipend,
health insurance, and an Education Award upon successful
completion of the program.
Resident Financial Arrangement
Residents sign a contract with BTR when they begin the program
committing them to teach in BPS for at least 3 years
following graduation. BTR charges $10,000 tuition for its
program, but automatically loans Residents that full amount
upon entrance to the program. One third of the loan is forgiven
for each year the BTR graduate teaches in BPS; thus, a
graduate who completes his or her 3-year commitment pays
no tuition to BTR.
BTR Core Principles and
Program Description
This section lays out the core principles behind BTR’s structure
and uses descriptions of the various program components
to illustrate these principles in action.
BTR Serves the BPS: BTR
Recruitment and Admissions
BTR is a BPS program; it is designed and operates to serve
BPS. It makes decisions based on what is best for the district,
and specifically for the district’s children and families. The
bottom-line mission to serve BPS influences every aspect of
BTR’s operation, from the way it recruits and selects Residents,
to its preparation of those Residents, to the support it
provides after graduation. This section explicates the notion of
a program serving a school district through a description of
the program’s recruitment and selection process, though this
theme recurs in later sections as well.
BTR works closely with BPS’s Office of Human Resources
(OHR) to ensure that it targets, attracts, and selects the candidates
who will best meet the district’s needs. OHR provides
BTR with explicit instructions detailing the desired make-up
of the next cohort of Residents. BTR then recruits and admits
a cohort in accordance with the district’s needs, aiming to
recruit and prepare the high-needs teachers the district
will hire the following year. BTR functions, in essence, as a
component of BPS’s overall recruitment program. This relationship
means that BTR’s recruitment efforts are aimed
at securing a cohort with a specific make-up (i.e., with a certain
percentage of secondary math teachers) and that its efforts
cannot just be focused on individuals. Each year BTR turns
down exceptional candidates with potential to be great teachers
because they will not help BPS fill its projected teaching
vacancies. BTR must be able to alter and adjust its recruitment
methods and emphases year to year in order to be responsive
to the district.
Because of its goal of recruiting diverse cohorts with backgrounds
in high-needs areas, BTR recruits broadly, at colleges
and career fairs, on public service Web sites, and in churches,
community centers, local businesses, and corporations. BTR
cohorts range in age from 21 to 65, include at least 51% people
of color, and represent a broad variety of work and life experiences.
BTR believes that the cohort’s diversity contributes to
each Resident’s learning and desire to stay in Boston. The diversity
fosters learning about issues of race and class, approaches
to an academic content area, and building and maintaining a
strong support system to keep people in teaching. BTR has
learned from successful recruits that the opportunity to be part
of such a cohort during the preparation year and in the initial
years as BPS teachers is an important factor for applicants
considering BTR.
BTR’s applicant selection process centers on a core set of
dispositions and experiences that are intended to be predictive
of successful teaching in the BPS. These qualifications
are based on the district’s Dimensions of Effective Teaching
(described in a following section) and BTR’s learnings about
the backgrounds of successful candidates. Applicants who
make it to the finalist stage are invited to an all-day selection
process at a BTR host school. Applicants complete a series of
performance tasks before a variety of BTR raters: Mentor
teachers, school and district administrators, BTR graduates,
colleagues in community-based agencies, and students. Finalists
teach a mini-lesson to a group of students, engage in a
group problem-solving activity, are interviewed twice, complete
a live writing sample about a classroom observation,
and take a mathematics assessment (for elementary candidates).
BTR does not accept an applicant until program staff
and members of the school and district communities have
observed and rated the applicant action in a real school with
real children. All raters seek to assess whether an applicant
has the potential to be an excellent teacher who will stay in
the BPS; a candidate who does not persuade the raters on
both issues is not accepted.
BTR is explicit with potential Residents: BTR’s clients are
the children and families of Boston, not the Residents themselves.
While some Residents are taken aback when they first
hear the message that “it’s not about you,” it sets an important
tone in the program. This relationship presents a contrast to
the traditional relationship between a candidate and a teacher
preparation program in which the client is the candidate. In
most teacher preparation programs, candidates pay tuition,
go through the program, and receive a degree and licensure at
the end. The transaction is largely between the teacher preparation
program and its candidates. BTR recruits, prepares,
and supports teachers only to further the goals of the district,
to enable all BPS students to achieve at high levels. BTR
recruits the people it judges to be best for Boston, attempts
to make the program affordable so that BTR can enroll the
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482 Journal of Teacher Education 60(5)
best candidates regardless of their financial situations, and
provides the best preparation it can—all so that Boston’s students
will have good teachers. If BTR were to fail to serve
the district’s goals, it would be discontinued.
Even after admission to BTR, the preparation year serves
as an extended job interview for Residents and hence functions
as a continuation of the recruitment process. Residents
are closely scrutinized, and their performance during this year
often determines their job prospects the following year. Because
BTR aims to prepare BPS teachers whose students make significant
academic gains, the program has a tight accountability
loop with BPS principals, OHR, and the district as a whole.
When BTR Residents interview for jobs, the principals are
on the phone with each other and with BTR staff to learn as
much as possible about the Resident. If a BTR graduate is
not doing well as a BPS teacher, BTR hears about it immediately.
That teacher’s principal not only calls the program, but
also talks to other principals and district administrators. BTR
lives and dies on the reputation of its graduates within the
BPS and has a strong incentive to ensure it provides teachers
that schools and principals want. Each year, BTR dismisses
people from the program for underperformance. Although
the program goes to great lengths to ensure that Residents are
successful, it is firmly committed to putting forth and sticking
to a clear definition of acceptable performance.
In a similar vein, BTR Mentor teachers report having different
expectations and standards for BTR Residents than
they may have had for student teachers from local universities.
Mentors have reported that in their past work with other
programs, when a student teacher was not meeting standards,
there was little incentive for the cooperating practitioner to
raise the issue and invite the extra work and hassle to ensure
that the person either developed the necessary teacher competencies
or was dismissed from the program. BTR Mentors
report that they know they are helping to prepare their future
colleagues. BTR Mentors say they are tougher on BTR residents
because the Resident might be teaching their students
next year or the students in the grade level below them. BTR
Mentors want to make sure they are only sending off teachers
they would want teaching next door. The various checks
on BTR Resident and graduate performance serve as a constant
source of accountability and program improvement.
BTR Blends Theory and Practice:
The Residency Year
This section begins with an introduction to the idea of blending
theory and practice in BTR and a note about the importance
of the cohort model, then contains brief descriptions of the
curriculum and classroom placement components of the program,
and concludes with a specific example to illustrate this
principle of blending theory and practice. BTR’s mentoring
component is referred to in this section and is expanded on in
the following section.
BTR has worked to create a curriculum that is enacted
coherently across the classroom placement and coursework
components of the program and that strikes a careful balance
between these two components. It grounds Residents’ preparation
in the classrooms of effective urban teachers and at the
same time ensures that Residents are part of an ongoing set
of broad conversations about effective teaching and do not
simply replicate their Mentor teachers’ practices (Grossman,
1991). One of the historical criticisms of teacher preparation
is that there is a split between theory and practice, that the
university teacher educator and the cooperating practitioner
advocate conflicting practices while the candidate is left to
make sense of this schism. BTR has purposely moved away
from a model of course instructor as the primary teacher
educator. BTR hires instructors whose careers and experiences
represent a blend of theory and practice: a literacy coach
with a doctorate in language acquisition, for example, or a professor
at a local university who has been an urban special
education teacher. BTR structures a complex series of yearlong
conversations between Residents, course instructors, Mentor
teachers, Site Directors, and program staff; BTR conceives
of the people in each of these roles as teacher educators (Bartunek,
1990; Feiman-Nemser, 1998). Everyone involved in
BTR is expected to work to join theory and practice, to wrestle
with core questions about maximizing student learning for
all students (Berry & Norton, 2006; Cochran-Smith & Lytle,
1999; Hiebert, Gallimore, & Stigler, 2002). The people in
each of those roles take responsibility for contributing to the
development of the Residents toward a common vision of
effective teaching. In turn, BTR both supports and holds the
people in these roles accountable for this work. The many
teacher educators working with each Resident spend significant
time and effort communicating with one another about
the program’s common set of competencies and about the
development of each individual Resident toward those competencies
(Feiman-Nemser & Parker, 1992). The program
has a responsibility not only to present diverse viewpoints
and perspectives to Residents, but also to provide mechanisms
for the Resident to make sense of the viewpoints held by the
many teacher educators he or she encounters. The Mentor
teacher needs to be in regular conversation with the course
instructor, for example, so that they are both involved in supporting
the Resident to shape a philosophy and approach to
Another thread running across the design of the program
is that each BTR Resident is part of several cohorts. The Residents
are first part of a cohort that contains the whole group;
BTR brings the entire class together regularly and intentionally
structures some core courses to include all Residents,
across grade levels and content areas. Residents are also part
of more intimate cohorts within their school placement. Upon
graduation, Residents join with the BTR of graduates from
years past who are teaching across the BPS. BTR believes
that this membership in multiple communities is a key factor
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Solomon 483
in Resident learning and in their longevity as teachers (Beck
& Kosnik, 2001; Grossman, Wineburg, & Woolworth, 2001;
Lieberman & Wood, 2001; Rust & Orland, 2001; Seifert &
Mandzuk, 2006; Westheimer, 1998). The opportunity to come
together in a structured way with other practitioners has been
significant in many Residents’ growth. As one BTR graduate
To be in a group of teachers who were passionate about
teaching and believed in the same thing was powerful.
Residents and Instructors were open to ideas that we
[Residents] had. BTR created and sustained a mantra
within us that we are all in it for the kids. We’re not in
it for other things. You can have a great program on
paper but the residency cohort experience was really
valuable . . . hearing Residents and Mentors talk about
their practice and trying something out and figuring
out why you failed.
Curriculum. Residents begin their coursework with a 2-month
intensive session that starts in the July before the school year.
Courses continue throughout the year all day on Fridays and
one afternoon per week, and Residents have a full month of
courses in the July following the school year.
The BTR curriculum was developed backward starting
from a key question: What set of dispositions, skills, and habits
does a BTR graduate need to be an effective teacher in the
BPS? To help answer this question and to create a program
whose structure and curriculum are well aligned with its
outcomes, BTR began by developing a clear vision of what a
BPS teacher should be able to do and used that vision to backwards
plan the program. Such a vision did not exist when
BTR was launched, so BTR embarked upon its own competency
development process. BTR surveyed the field and
developed a set of core teaching competencies that represented
the research community’s consensus on competencies
aligned to effective teaching as well as BTR and BPS’s specific
values. BTR designed and chose courses, experiences,
assignments, and readings that were most likely to help
Residents achieve a level of competence in each of the core
teaching areas. The curriculum has three main strands: equity,
inquiry, and community. Residents (and Mentors) are all
taught a simple cycle of inquiry that serves as a common tool
for the analysis and use of data across the program. Residents
complete portfolios over the course of the year with entries
tied to each competency, modeled loosely after the National
Board for Professional Teaching Standards process. BTR’s
curriculum includes specific attention to the district’s instructional
initiatives. A middle school math teacher who goes
through BTR will take part in a broad exploration of the content
and pedagogies associated with teaching mathematics and
will also become familiar with the specific math curriculum
BPS uses in its schools. BTR aims to graduate teachers who
on their first day are already well versed in the curriculum
they will be teaching and may be able to focus on some of the
many other challenges of the first year of teaching.
BTR uses the competency framework to align the areas
of study across its courses and classroom placement activities.
Although there is much that is unpredictable about a
classroom or a graduate course, BTR developed a hypothetical
learning trajectory around the eight competencies. As an
example, Residents are asked to focus on the Safe, Respectful,
and Culturally Sensitive and Responsive Learning Communities
competency at the beginning of the school year. Each
course that Residents are enrolled in addresses this competency,
each Mentor and Resident pair looks at aspects of the
competency, and each Site Director guides learning experiences
in the school-based cohort designed to deepen Resident’s
understanding in this area. BTR assesses each Resident’s progress
each month and a special emphasis is given to the most
recent focus competency. As good teaching requires attention
to many variables at the same time, the purpose of this
focus competency is not to oversimplify practice but to allow
Residents the room and guidance to add to their repertoire in
an intentional and explicit manner.
The Classroom Placement. The core of BTR’s teacher preparation
program is a full-year “residency” in a BPS school,
working closely full-time 4 days per week with a BTR-trained
and -supported Mentor teacher in his or her classroom. Residents
are placed in host schools in clusters of six or more.
Residents begin their placement the week before schools
starts, though many have started working with their Mentors
as early as the previous June, and Residents are in the school
Monday through Thursday full-time until the last day of
school. Residents work with classes of students for an entire
year; it is critical that they do not miss, for example, the crucial
first days of school in which the foundation for classroom cultures
are often established. The Resident begins the year from
day one as an active participant in the classroom, sharing
responsibilities with the Mentor teacher, and gradually taking
over more responsibility. Before Thanksgiving all Residents
complete a lead teaching week that provides particular insight
into their strengths and challenges as a new teacher. In the
second half of the year, Residents assume a 50-50 split of all
instructional duties with the Mentor.
The Mentor-Resident relationship is at the center of the
preparation year. Mentors and Residents take part in carefully
structured meetings each week (referred to as “sacred
time”) and are closely supervised by the school-based Site
Director. The Resident is also expected and supported to
learn as part of a broader community in the school. Each
Resident has a secondary special education or English as
a Second Language placement and works closely with a
Mentor teacher in that setting. Site Directors are excellent
veteran teachers or instructional coaches already working
at the host school who are ready and eager to take on a new
role without leaving the school; many are still in the classroom.
Having a school-based Site Director means that
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484 Journal of Teacher Education 60(5)
supervision is day to day, not intermittent; the Site Director
is always there and available. Site Directors have demonstrated
their excellence as BPS teachers and are trained,
committed, and supervised to focus on the Residents’ and
Mentors’ development over the course of the year. As a citizen
of the school, the Site Director already knows the students,
culture, norms, and most importantly, the other teachers. He
or she can operate in the school setting skillfully. The Site
Director position also helps build a set of career roles and
responsibilities for teachers to advance without leaving
the classroom and school building (Boles & Troen, 1997;
Feiman-Nemser, 2001).
Blending Theory and Practice: An Example. BTR’s curriculum
is built around ongoing central experiences. One of
BTR’s core competencies is the ability to use data to inform
practice. BTR asks Residents to complete a set of assignments
called a child study. Residents begin the year by
collecting data about three children in their classes who
they will follow throughout the year. BTR trains Residents,
Mentors, and Site Directors in data collection techniques.
The Mentor is expected to include explicit attention to the
child study assignment and its larger aims in his or her
mentoring, to ensure that he or she is modeling data collection
techniques, is being explicit about the analysis he or
she performs, and is working with the Resident on his or
her data collection and analysis. The Site Director supervises
the collection of data about the students and the
Mentor-Resident conversations; he or she also leads a process
in which he or she brings a host school’s entire cohort
of Residents together and uses a discussion protocol to
deepen their analyses. The assignment, which originates in
a yearlong Reflective Seminar course, also has components
in two other classes, Child Development and the appropriate
Content Methods (e.g., Teaching History) class.
Residents continue to work on the assignment throughout
the fall, collecting data and learning about the case study
students’ learning styles and needs. During Residents’ lead
teaching week in November, they reflect on, among many
other things, the effectiveness of their lessons for their case
study students as evidenced in the students’ work. They
then use those conclusions to inform further instruction.
Residents present their learning about the case study students
and what they have learned about their own practice
to a panel of educators from BTR and their host schools in
the first of two portfolio presentations (a midyear, formative,
presentation in January and a final presentation in
June). The child study assignment expands during the
spring as Residents begin to engage in a similar process
with whole classes, looking at patterns of achievement in
the data and learning about how to best design instruction
so it meets the range of learners in the classroom, while
continuing to follow their child study students. The assignment
continues to play a key role in the Content Methods
classes and is picked up in an Inclusive Education class.
Residents present this work as part of their yearend portfolio
presentation and the final written analysis is one of the
major components of their portfolio.
Residents Focus on Learning Alongside an
Experienced, Trained Mentor
The role of the Mentor teacher and the mentoring school
are critical to BTR Residents’ development. BTR carefully
selects and collaborates with BPS host schools in which it
places cohorts of Residents. Within these host schools, BTR
carefully selects, trains, compensates, and supervises Mentor
teachers. The Mentor teacher serves as the primary, though
by no means the sole, guide to the Resident over the year.
While the Mentor teacher and the mentoring relationship
are central to BTR’s model, BTR’s approach to mentoring
starts not with the individual Mentor but also with the
mentoring school. BTR has tried to move away from a pure
one-on-one model of mentoring and treats the host school
community as the mentoring body. BTR believes that the
one-on-one model places an unnecessary burden on both the
Resident and the Mentor and believes that there is much to
learn across the school building; a Resident who spends time
in only one classroom misses out on much of what the rest
of the school has to teach. Although each BTR Resident
is assigned to a primary Mentor teacher, the host school’s
community of Mentors, Residents, and Site Director are
all expected to spread the learning around the school community.
This effort regularly takes the form of Grand Rounds,
collective learning experiences led by the Site Director for
the cohort of Residents based in classrooms around the school.
All Residents serve in a secondary placement in a special education
or English as a Second Language setting, which allows
them access to another classroom and another approach to
teaching. Residents also participate in many formal and informal
observations and conversations with other educators in
the building (often focused on specific learning points, e.g.,
asking probing questions or interacting with social service
Schools within the BPS apply to be BTR host schools.
Each host school agrees to mentor at least six Residents. BTR
looks for schools with three primary characteristics: (a) a critical
mass of teachers ready and eager to serve as Mentors; (b) a
collaborative, data-based professional culture; and (c) leadership
with a clear vision for school improvement that includes
the work of teacher preparation and development. The selection
process focuses on finding a good fit between the program and
the school. BTR staff visits schools that apply, observe and
talk with teachers and leadership, and review the school’s
academic performance. BTR coordinates its school selection
with BPS leadership. Only after a school is selected do
individual teachers apply to be Mentors. BTR looks to recruit
and select a diverse cohort of Mentors who have demonstrated
their effectiveness as teachers, are consciously skilled
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Solomon 485
and able to talk about their decision making, and are able to
commit to the work of a rigorous yearlong mentoring program
(Cohen, McLaughlin, & Talbert, 1993).
Mentors participate in a 3-day BTR Mentor training that
takes place over the summer, as well as monthly trainings
during the school year. Mentors commit to a set of responsibilities
over the course of the year, including the two sacred
hours of meeting time each week, and commit to open their
classrooms and practice to the entire cohort of Residents
(Tharp & Gallimore, 1988). Mentors oversee the program’s
gradual release of responsibility (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983;
Sweeney, 2003). BTR pays Mentors $3,000 for their work
over the school year. The stipend, although far less than the
Mentors deserve, is critical; it sends the message that the
Mentors are doing important, professional work for which
they should be paid, and it helps build in the expectation that
BTR will hold Mentors accountable for their work.
The Site Director oversees the learning of the Residents
and is also the direct supervisor of his or her host school’s
Mentor teachers. BTR has developed a set of Dimensions of
Effective Mentoring to guide its development and supervision
of Mentors. BTR has learned that the support and
accountability associated with the Site Director–Mentor
relationship is critical to the program’s ability to provide
effective mentoring for all of its Residents.
Teacher Development Extends Beyond Preparation:
BTR’s Induction Program for Graduates
BTR is conceived as a 4-year program, comprised of 1 year
of preparation and 3 years of induction support. New teachers
are not “done” on graduation day. To the contrary, new
teachers are just beginning their development as they enter
classrooms as teachers of record and need significant support
to continue to grow (Fideler & Haselkorn, 1999; Ingersoll,
2004; Stansbury & Zimmerman, 2000; Whisnant, Elliott, &
Pynchon, 2005). As a BPS program, BTR’s key outcomes
occur only after the preparation year: (a) the retention of our
graduates in the BPS, (b) their effectiveness as measured by
supervisors and independent evaluators, and (c) their ability
to help students make significant academic progress (Feiman-
Nemser, 2001). As such, BTR’s induction component is
critical to its success and is linked closely and carefully with
the first-year preparation program. BTR would be leaving its
work undone if it did not ensure aligned induction work for
program graduates.
Because BTR is not purely a teacher preparation program,
but rather a teacher development program, its responsibility
to its Residents has no natural end, other than a graduate
deciding to leave the BPS. This responsibility is in fact a
tremendous opportunity for BTR to work with teachers to
help them develop and contribute as long as they want to
teach in some form. BTR has tried to create a coherent, contextual
program that takes teachers from the beginning of
their preparation to their establishment as effective teachers,
and beyond.
BTR has designed, and continues to develop, its preparation
and induction programs along the continuum of teacher
development associated with our core competencies. BTR
works with teachers to chart their development along these
competencies over their years of teaching. BTR’s induction
supports begin with one-on-one in-class coaching for
graduates in their first few years of teaching. BTR continues
offering courses to graduates that are aligned with its preparation
courses; the core ideas and practices are continued from
the residency year into the induction period. Some instructors
teach both Residents and graduates, and the cohort of Residents
continues on as a cohort of BPS teachers. All graduates
are expected to complete a second license in special education
or English as a Second Language in their first year as
teacher of record.
BTR is working to maximize the coherence of the induction
experience for its graduates. Information about a
Resident, his or her strengths and areas of growth, is handed
off from one program component to the next. BTR ensures
that there is a relay of information from the Site Director
who worked closely with a particular Resident during his or
her residency year to the Induction coach who will support
this graduate in his or her first years. In this way, coaches can
pick up and build on the learning goals and strengths established
in the previous years.
BTR has come to the conclusion that if it is to maximize
impact, it must be more intentional and strategic about
clustering graduates in certain schools. Hiring in BPS is
completely decentralized; there are 143 schools and each
makes its own hiring decisions. While BTR has always tried
to have graduates hired in clusters by schools, it has only
been able to place graduates in clusters through individual
relationships with principals and in schools. BTR is working
to align placement of graduates with district priorities. To the
extent that there are schools identified that would benefit
from clusters of graduates, BTR wants to work with the district
to direct graduates there. Clustered placements of graduates
would affect how BTR works with these schools. Whereas
BTR’s induction efforts to date have primarily focused on
individuals and small groups, the organization will ultimately
move toward a school-based model, much as BTR structures
its preparation component. An individual coach or course can
only be so effective if a teacher is working in a dysfunctional
school, but a well-functioning and supportive work
environment often obviates the need for external coaching or
coursework. BTR aims to partner with the schools that hire
its graduates to help them develop the kind of data-based,
collaborative cultures the program models in its preparation.
There are a growing number of schools that have hired clusters
of graduates and are starting to see some changes. One
school, for example, now has more than 20 BTR-affiliated
adults: 6 Residents, 6 Mentors, 3 special education Mentors,
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486 Journal of Teacher Education 60(5)
a Site Director, and 7 graduates. The graduates are beginning
to take on leadership roles in the school; 3 of the 4 content
area leaders are BTR graduates. In such a school, in close
partnership with the principal and other teacher leaders, BTR
is able to gain some traction to help create a new culture and
better results.
As larger numbers of BTR graduates enter the second stage
of their teaching careers, they are raising a series of questions
for BTR and BPS to consider. How do BTR and BPS
continue to develop outstanding second-stage teachers who
want to stay in teaching but also advance in the profession?
How does BTR work to create new roles and opportunities for
these talented and committed teachers? How does BTR help
change the notion of the profession, from a flat one in which
people do the same job in Year 1 as in Year 20 to one that provides
options for advancement and diversity? Although these
discussions are in their early stages, BTR is excited about the
potential represented by the cohorts of graduates pushing for
answers to these questions.
Student Achievement as BTR’s Bottom Line
As BTR has developed, it has reached the conclusion that it
should ultimately be measured by the academic achievement
of the students in its graduates’ classrooms. BTR wants its
teachers to produce measurable and significant gains in student
learning. If BTR is to be part of the answer in Boston to
help all students reach academic proficiency, it must graduate
teachers that can support students to make steady and significant
gains. If BTR does not produce teachers who support
those academic gains on a reliable basis, the program’s efforts
will have fallen short.
This commitment to student achievement must be reflected
in all aspects of the program. BTR has begun the work of
reviewing and adjusting its curriculum and overall program
structure to reflect this focus. This shift has two significant
implications. First, BTR has developed an urgent interest in
understanding whether and to what extent having a Resident
in the classroom affects student achievement during the preparation
year and whether and to what extent program graduates
are producing significant student learning gains. As one piece
of this effort, BTR has begun to track the value-added student
achievement impacts of its graduates. Second, BTR is
in the process of retraining its own staff—course instructors,
coaches, Site Directors, and Mentors, not to mention program
leaders—to work with student achievement as the starting
point. For example, it is not enough to sit down with a teacher
and only talk about teacher practices, the norm in many classroom
observations, student work and student achievement
data must be a focal point of the discussion. The conversations
have to work to identify and explore linkages between
teacher practices and student learning.
BTR does not support, and is not trying to implement, an
accountability system for individual teachers. There are strong
arguments against the idea of linking student achievement
to a specific teacher. The sheer quantity of variables that affect
learning in a classroom and the complex interplay of those
variables make it nearly impossible to compare any two
classrooms, there are at best imperfect ways of measuring
student learning, and such a system could easily present an
incentive for teachers to avoid difficult assignments. However,
BTR does believe that in the aggregate, across cohorts
of program graduates, there is much to be learned about the
effectiveness of the program. There is absolutely no question
that large numbers of our children, and disproportionately
children of color and children from low-income households,
are not being well served by our school systems. BTR takes it
as a given, therefore, that it must start to understand the effects of
its graduates on student learning. Although the current assessment
and growth modeling systems are far from perfect, if we
wait for a system that is perfect, another generation of students
will pass through our schools. Teacher education has
operated without clear measures for too long, and that has
left the field open to charges of ineffectiveness. As a part of
a school district, BTR’s work takes place in schools and in a
central office that is constantly being measured according to
student achievement measures. BTR believes that it should
share in this accountability with the district.
Leveraging Broader Change
The article now turns to the question of BTR’s potential to
leverage change both within and outside the BPS. What follows
are two examples in which a BTR effort has been able
to spur a larger district change and a possible future direction
for the relationship between school districts and teacher preparation
BPS Dimensions of Effective Teaching
Soon after BTR developed its Core Teaching Competencies,
the BPS leadership started a similar process to identify
and codify a vision of effective teaching. Because BTR had
just gone through this process, the district used the BTR Core
Teaching Competencies as one of its main models in the development
of what is now known as the BPS Dimensions of
Effective Teaching (DET). BTR’s placement as a district
program made its set of competencies a natural fit for the
BPS-wide effort. In turn, given the close alignment between
BTR’s curricular goals and the DET, BTR made the decision
to fit its program around these DET, so that Residents would
be using the same language and set of core ideas in their
preparation as in their careers at BPS. BTR adopted these
Dimensions because it wanted to present a clear, developmental
view about what it means to be a good teacher. Having a
consistent set of DET that overlap the boundary between preparation
and a teaching career means that Residents can see
their growth along a single continuum, rather than feel like
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Solomon 487
they have to adapt to a new framework of what’s good teaching
once they actually become teachers.
District-Wide Induction
The work of creating a teacher preparation program with the
BPS and the district’s commitment to support the program
financially raised a set of questions about the kind of induction
support the district provided for all its new teachers. How
could the district prioritize and invest in teacher preparation
as a core element of its improvement strategy but leave many
new teachers to flounder? As a result of these conversations,
BPS has built and now runs a comprehensive new teacher
support system that is of far greater intensity and coordination
than was previously in place. The district’s decision to
invest in its own teacher preparation program was instrumental
in pushing the next logical conversation about how to
create effective induction supports for new teachers.
Changing the Relationship Between
a District and Teacher Preparation Institutions
Before it started BTR, BPS and districts like it across the
country had been purely consumers of teacher preparation.
BTR enables BPS to produce its own teachers, fundamentally
changing the relationship with all teacher preparation institutions.
This new relationship gives districts such as the BPS an
opportunity to begin new conversations with the teacher preparation
institutions that prepare teachers for that district.
Imagine, for instance, that the district were to sit down with
each teacher preparation institution and give it a “report card”
of sorts, a document detailing key statistics about the teachers
that the teacher preparation program has provided to the district:
how many, what content areas, demographics of the
group, retention statistics, and some measure of effectiveness
(whether through principal evaluations, student achievement,
or some other observational protocol). The differences in these
report cards might provide key information and leverage for
the district as it decides which preparers it wants to work with.
The conversations over these report cards might lead to new
innovations and relationships between the district and the
most effective local teacher preparation programs. Some
teacher preparation programs might be asked to prepare more
teachers and might be given some sort of preferential status in
the district, others might decide that the district was not the
right fit. School districts across the country have begun to take
control of their human capital needs; programs like BTR may
be able to serve as critical levers in these efforts.
This article has tried to describe BTR’s central ideas and
practices in an effort to contribute to a larger conversation
about how school districts might build the kinds of teaching
forces they need to meet the challenges of 21st-century public
education. Teacher preparation should not continue as an institution
isolated from the schools and school districts it aims to
serve; likewise, school districts cannot continue to outsource
so much of their human capital development work. Rather,
these efforts must be combined.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interests with
respect to the authorship and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) received no financial support for the research and/or
authorship of this article.
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Jesse Solomon is director and co-founder of the Boston Teacher
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After reviewing the evaluation of the Project STAR study, submit your responses to the following three questions

What is the research question(s)? (One or two sentences)

How convincing is the answer? (One or two paragraphs)

– What comparison group is being used to make causal inferences?

– What assumptions are being made in using that comparison group?

– What are the most important threats to the internal validity of the study’s conclusions?

What are the implications for policy and practice? (One or two paragraphs)

– Are the findings substantively significant?

– To whom or what do the findings generalize?

When addressing the issue of substantive significance, be sure to make use of the Hill et al. reading (“Empirical Benchmarks for Interpreting Effect Sizes”).

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