Fresno County teacher residency programs show success in retaining educators

As schools grapple with teacher shortages exacerbated by poor retention rates, the Golden Bell award-winning Fresno Rural Teacher Residency Program can act as an example of what works when it comes to training and retaining educators in often difficult-to-staff areas.

Under the Office of the Fresno County Superintendent, the program allows for streamlined recruitment, higher retention rates and more support for new teachers with “similar geographic, cultural, linguistic and low-income backgrounds, predominantly Hispanic immigrant and migrant populations, who have historically had limited access to resources due to geographic isolation.”

Teachers, with support from Kerman, Mendota, Firebaugh, Golden Plains and Laton Unified School Districts receive equity-driven professional development as well as mentoring from experienced educators.

In its first year, the program recruited 19 residents — 80 percent of whom identified as Latino and 60 percent from a rural community. Upon completion of the program, 74 percent were hired by the program’s rural district residency partners and neighboring rural districts. Just two residents applied to more urban districts.

“What this program does is it takes students who are Fresno State students but grew up in Mendota or Firebaugh and now they’re able to go and teach in their home communities. It’s really phenomenal because 85 percent of these residents live or grew up in the community where they serve as teachers,” Deputy Superintendent Hank Gutierrez told a local ABC news affiliate. “This program allows rural districts to have a continual cycle of the highest quality of teachers.”

Other local residency programs

Modeled after medical residencies, teacher residencies at the Kremen School of Education and Human Development at California State University, Fresno, combines rigorous masters-level coursework, teacher credentialing coursework and in-classroom apprenticeship.

During the resident’s yearlong placement, they are fully integrated into the day-to-day workings of a school and district in order to better prepare teachers for the realities of the profession. Upon graduation, residents are more like second-year teachers in their first year of teaching.

According to Fresno State, the Fresno Teacher Residency Program, a partnership with Fresno USD, boasts an 81 percent three-year retention rate over the past seven years, while the Sanger Unified Teacher Residency program boasts an 87 percent three-year retention rate — both significantly higher than the national average, which hovers at around 50 percent teacher attrition in less than five years.

Additionally, programs can be tailored to need. For instance, the Fresno USD partnership offers three teacher residency options:

  • The Dual Teaching Credentialallows residents to earn a Multiple Subject and two Education Specialist (mild/moderate and extensive support needs) teaching credentials simultaneously.
  • The Multiple Subject Teaching Credential allows residents to add a supplementary authorization in Math or a Foundational Level Science credential.
  • The Multiple Subject Teaching Credential prepares teachers for dual-immersion elementary school classrooms, with bilingual authorization offered in Spanish or Hmong.