PEF teacher residency initiative linked to improvements in teacher effectiveness

PEF teacher residency initiative linked to improvements in teacher effectiveness

February 22, 2021

The work of training a soon-to-be teacher through a full-year apprenticeship, known as a teacher residency, contributes to improved teaching and learning outcomes for the schools, classrooms and students involved in the work.  According to a new research study, the relationship between the students, the teacher-resident, and the host teacher (also called a clinical instructor) may be mutually beneficial. Like the programs cited in this research, Project Inspire is a teacher residency initiative recognized by the lead organization in the research, the National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR). Launched in 2010 by the Public Education Foundation (PEF), the program is one of more than 30 in the NCTR network. In partnership with Hamilton County Schools, Lee University and UTC, Project Inspire recruits and trains college graduates to become effective teachers in high-need schools in Chattanooga, where students’ greatest need is consistent access to an effective teacher. Following the 14-month residency experience, which integrates academic coursework with a full year of training alongside an effective veteran teacher, Project Inspire graduates commit to teaching for at least 4 years in a high-need school in Chattanooga.    

Released in late 2020 by NCTR and Glass Frog Solutions, the data from the study shows that, among host teachers using the model advocated by NCTR, hosting a resident in the classroom is positively associated with a higher teacher effectiveness score for the clinical instructor. Higher teacher effectiveness scores are also associated with improved, higher levels of student achievement and growth, both of which are key intended outcomes from Project Inspire’s partnership with high-need schools. For Project Inspire, these findings are particularly exciting, because such results validate the program’s commitment that teacher-residents will have a positive impact on student learning before entering the profession and that the host clinical instructors will be able to improve their effectiveness as teachers and leaders. 

East Lake Elementary is a long-standing partner school for Project Inspire, where the largest cluster of Project Inspire graduates teach and contribute to the improvement of a strong school culture. East Lake fifth-grade teacher and Project Inspire clinical instructor Rene Bruzon explains that his performance is elevated when he knows he is serving as a model for a teacher-resident. “Hosting a resident is as enriching for students as it is for me. I must be as much of a model teacher as I can possibly be, every day.” 

Orchard Knob Middle School is another key Project Inspire host site where a significant cluster of Project Inspire residents, clinical instructors, and graduates are teaching and working collectively to drive improvement. Erica Kelley is a seventh grade social studies teacher at Orchard Knob Middle School and an award-winning Project Inspire clinical instructor. “Since I must remain transparent with residents at every stage of decision-making from planning to implementation, I have become more intentional and reflective.” Kelly stated. “The Project Inspire experience has also pushed me out of my comfort zone through working with residents who are more willing to and excited about trying new things and taking risks. I now explore new activities and strategies with our very appreciative students.”

Research validates, and Project Inspire and its partners know, that students thrive in classrooms with highly effective teachers. This emergent research from NCTR and Glass Frog supports the idea that students and the broader school community experience a direct benefit from the investment that teacher-residents make in striving to be what Project Inspire recognizes as a “different kind of teacher,” one who is well-prepared and deeply committed to ensuring that all students have the access to opportunity that they deserve. The implications of this research also confirm another key aspect of Project Inspire’s strategic mission--that the work of improving and strengthening teacher preparation has positive ripple effects beyond the host classroom and across the entire school. 

Project Inspire program director Mark Neal explained: "At Project Inspire, we know that this work provides an opportunity for clinical instructors to go through a process of growth and improvement to become more effective leaders in the profession. This growth then allows clinical instructors to extend their reach to coach other teachers toward growth and improvement. So, by improving the quality of both beginning teachers and teacher-leaders, Project Inspire is a lever for improving the culture of learning across an entire school." The work of training an effective Project Inspire graduate is grounded in strong partnerships with schools like Orchard Knob Middle and East Lake Elementary, where school leaders understand and invest deeply in the long-term impact of the program. 

Through Project Inspire, PEF and its partners are continually adapting and further improving one of most robust and effective teacher residency programs in the country. With over 100 successful program graduates to date, the program continues to expand its scope and scale. A particular emphasis is placed on improving the diversity and quality of the pool of new teachers, while also launching and sustaining exciting teacher-leadership initiatives that allow teachers to grow as leaders. Project Inspire continues to recruit applicants for the upcoming class of residents for the 2021-22 school year, and more information about the program, the application process, and the talented individuals who serve(d) as teacher-residents can be found at

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