Imagine an education system that works for everyone: Preparation programs have plenty of promising recruits across certification areas; districts have a strong pipeline of diverse, well-prepared teachers; accomplished educators become leaders in their profession from inside the classroom; and every student has an excellent teacher. It’s not the system we have right now, but it’s possible.

Across South Carolina, education leaders are working toward that vision. Pockets of success have made mentoring accessible for new teachers through programs like CarolinaTIP and prepared excellent teachers through high-quality residency pathways, like Furman University’s Teacher to Teacher Residency and Clemson University’s residency program. The education sector can and should expand such models to push toward a system that unites all our goals across higher education and P-12 schools, providing a greater pool of resources to improve the education ecosystem.

At Prepared To Teach, we work to support the kinds of changes that make success possible, with a specific emphasis on building tight partnerships between schools and teacher preparation programs to support funded residencies. Prepared To Teach facilitates conversations between universities and schools that deepen understandings of shared goals so that partners can develop mutually beneficial models. These sorts of partnerships are not unlike high quality professional development school partnerships, where higher education faculty and P-12 school personnel collaborate on ways to improve both preservice teacher preparation and in-service teacher professional development. Here are just a few ways those relationships are changing the system:

  • When teacher preparation programs know and understand district instructional priorities, programs better align their curriculum and clinical practice.

  • When school leaders know and understand the clinical experiences that candidates need, they leverage candidates’ presence in classrooms to support students.

  • When faculty have opportunities to work in P-20 schools supporting their candidates, they serve as a resource to other teachers and leaders in the building.

  • When districts establish formal clinical practice partnerships with local preparation programs, candidates feel connected to the local schools and are excited to apply for vacancies.

  • When teachers have the opportunity to take on formal mentor roles and actively assist in candidates’ preparation, they become teacher leaders, re-engaged in the profession.

  • When candidates have financial support so that they can afford to spend a year learning to teach in classrooms with a mentor teachers, more diverse individuals are able to enter the profession.

Across South Carolina and the nation, universities, districts, and schools have worked together to establish a strong foundation for the work. Now, it’s time to codify those partnerships in our schools and teacher education programs. In the Prepared To Teach network of residencies, that work has already begun:

  • Western Washington University and district partners are welcoming 20 interns across five schools in fall 2020. District and school leadership are reallocating substitute teacher and paraprofessional dollars to fund candidates during their yearlong clinical practice. The program will also embed a faculty member in one of its partner districts. This faculty member will spend a majority of her day in district schools, making her accessible to teacher candidates and mentor teachers, as well as other teachers and leaders in the building.

  • The College of Staten Island in New York also will enroll its inaugural cohort of funded residents in fall 2020. Residents will work in New York City public schools for a year with living stipends funded from a combination of sources—including principal-allocated school building funds.

  • In response to a substitute teacher shortage, the University of South Dakota placed six residents in a Sioux Falls school. All candidates work closely with mentor teachers and attend school training in order to facilitate strong connections to the district. Residents are also paid a living stipend.

Whatever your role may be, consider how your local education landscape can share space, time, professional learning opportunities, instructional strategies, and human capital:

  • Are there ways you can be more efficient?

  • Are there openings to deepen your understanding of one another?

  • How can local teacher candidates play a part in schools?

  • How can you build a strong teacher development trajectory for current teachers?

  • What do students need most, and how can we work together to give it to them?

If you’re ready to be a part of the movement for a united P-20 system, mark your calendar for 2:00pm ET on June 12th. Prepared To Teach will be co-hosting an SC-TEACHER webinar.

These are the kinds of questions we ask when partners first sit down together. Prepared To Teach has the specific goal of ensuring that every teacher candidate has the opportunity to learn through a funded residency, but before that comes, the understanding of what we’re all working toward—a system where everyone wins. By committing to closing the gap between P-12 schools and universities, we can come a little closer to a world where there’s a well-prepared teacher in every classroom and all students can succeed.

If you’re ready to be a part of the movement for a united P-20 system, mark your calendar for 2:00pm ET on June 12th. Prepared To Teach will be co-hosting an SC-TEACHER webinar with Michalann G. Evatt & A. Scott Henderson (Furman University) on teacher residencies and their potential to support educators, students, and schools. We’ll be talking about existing programs, promising strategies, recommendations, and the role sustainable funding plays in access and equity. More information here.