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Troy University plans to expand teacher residency program

After seeing a shortage of teachers, officials at the Troy University College of Education decided they needed to do something about it.

“We have a teacher shortage across the nation and we’re starting to feel it in our area,” said Dr. Ruth Busby, department chair of the College of Education. “It behooves us to examine the factors causing that teacher shortage since we’re in the business of training teachers.”

Busby said much of that shortage is due to a trend of attrition among teachers.

“Up to 50 percent leave profession in the first five years,” Bubsy said. “We’re examining why this is happening. Most teachers are white, middle class females being hired into high-minority, high-poverty school systems. What happens is they experience culture shock; they’re woefully unprepared to deal with the complexities of day-to-day teaching in an environment like that.”

That lack of preparation and subsequent attrition has a heavy impact on school systems and the students in those teachers’ classes.

“Turnover costs school systems upward of $18,000 when you look at recruitment costs, training costs and such,” Busby said. “But the biggest impact is on the students and on student achievement. It impacts that greatly when you have a revolving door of teachers coming in and out; you can’t replace a teacher with 15 years of experience with a new teacher and expect to have the same student achievement results. Classrooms becoming more and more diverse and teachers are stressed with many needs in the classroom including mental health concerns, poverty, single-parent homes – we’re expecting more from teachers than we ever have before.”

So the college devised a new program to make student teachers a more permanent fixture at schools instead of just visitors.

“It involves more time in the schools, more clinical experiences,” Busby said. “There’s less seat time, more hands-on experience out in the schools. We want teachers to become a resident of the school instead of a visitor. They’re there when school opens and closes and that’s a different calendar than what we follow at the university. Our students now are not getting to see what it is to set up a classroom and setting plan, which is probably the most important part of setting the stage for the entire school year.”

The plan is to also place the student teachers with “master teachers” that will be able to teach them hands-on in the classroom.

“The interesting part is building relationships with schools and asking the school systems to share in governance of the programs,” Busby said. “The school system will tell us ‘Here are our needs’ and we can modify our programs accordingly so our teachers are ready day one going into the classroom.”

The idea began in Dothan as a way to help early childhood teacher candidates at the Coleman Center, but Busby said the program is growing fast and that the college is looking to secure two grants that could expand the program to school systems at every Troy campus in the state.