Grantee Spotlight: Evaluating the Efficacy of the Urban Teacher Residency Partnership Program (UTRPP) Hillsborough County Public Schools

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What is your i3 project trying to achieve, and what are the major pieces of the project?

We received an i3 Development grant in 2014 to study the efficacy of UTRPP, an undergraduate elementary teacher residency program we have in partnership with the University of South Florida. Our ultimate goal with the program is to expand the instructional capacity of teachers serving children in high-needs schools by strengthening the pipeline between pre- and inservice teaching. We do this through a partnership between Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS), the 8th largest district in the U.S., and the University of South Florida’s Urban Teacher Residency Partnership Program (UTRPP).

UTRPP Residents work within six urban elementary schools located in the university area. These schools serve nearly 3,000 children, of whom more than 93% qualify for free and reduced lunch. The UTRPP incorporates comprehensive, job-embedded professional development (PD) for participating Residents and trained Collaborating Teachers (CTs); establishes quads to support Residents (CT, University Supervisor, University Content Coach, and Resident); and delivers an explicit focus on teaching and learning in urban settings with specialized emphasis on established HCPS ways of work to ensure a seamless transition to induction and beyond.  

Upon successful completion of the program UTRPP Residents are guaranteed employment in HCPS. Since the inception of the UTRPP, more than 70% of our graduates work in HCPS with 48% of those working for one of our six UTRPP partner schools.

 

What are some best practices or successful strategies that are unique to your project?

Three unique practices we would like to share include: Content coaching, STEM PLCs, and the Teacher Leadership Academy.

Content coaching was created in UTRPP as a way to support pre-service teachers’ developing pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). In their full-year residency (second year of the program), Residents engage in content coaching in literacy, math, and science. The coach, either a faculty member or advanced graduate student in the field, joins the supervision triad (supervisor, collaborating teacher, and resident) to create a quad. Content coaches plan with each resident for the subject being coached, take video of the resident teaching, and conduct a post-conference with the resident. Prior to the post-conference, the resident and the coach separately code the teaching video using a scaffold from the content area, and then join together to discuss the elements of that content area within the lesson. Content coaching is mean to enhance the traditional supervision model by placing content experts in the field with residents.

STEM PLCs were developed by USF math and science faculty, in collaboration with HCPS district math and science supervisors.  The content area leaders from both institutions created a joint elementary education STEM leadership team, and together they created a common vision for integrated STEM teaching at the elementary level. Once this vision was articulated, the team designed educational materials to support both inservice and preservice professional development in this area.  For the preservice teachers, the UTRPP faculty carved out 45 minutes of classtime each week for the STEM PLCs.  During their time in the professional learning community, the residents created the plans for integrated STEM lessons, implemented those lessons in their elementary classrooms and then shared about that experience with their colleagues.  Although the process of learning how to create integrated STEM lessons has been very challenging for the residents, they have found that these lessons promote student engagement and mastery of the relevant standards. For inservice teachers, our STEM leadership team has used similar professional development materials to host voluntary after school PLCs for teachers wanting to strengthen their STEM instruction. These sessions provide teachers with opportunities to share successes and to troubleshoot challenges.

The Teacher Leadership Academy is designed to grow leaders within our UTRPP schools through a certificate program at USF. Created as a job-embedded and context-specific program, the Teacher Leadership Academy uses the strengths and needs of the school site to provide an enhanced professional development program for those enrolled. The goal of the program is to bring together collaborating teachers from across the six school sites and support them as they develop the skills to work toward a shared UTRPP vision while maintaining the goals of each unique school site. Collaborating Teachers in UTRPP are rewarded with graduate tuition vouchers that support their enrollment in the Teacher Leadership Academy (or other graduate programs).

 

What challenges have you faced and what lessons have you learned for ensuring programmatic success?

We are fortunate to have exceptional relationships between HCPS and USF. Because of these relationships, we are able to address challenges immediately and make adjustments that meet the needs of all stakeholders. One challenge was developing a workable plan for disseminating, collecting, and recording consent forms for the administrators, teachers, and children at each of the six partner schools operating as part of UTRPP. We learned quickly in our first year that mechanisms for this process needed to be in place early, and would likely differ at each school site based on how the site communicated with families. We provided our school partners with the details we needed in order to fulfill the university’s IRB process, and then tailored our approach to meet each school’s needs. We revisit these approaches each year to ensure we are still operating in a manner that allows for efficient and effective consent processes.

Like most teacher preparation programs in the United States, USF has endured declining enrollment in the undergraduate elementary education program. Because of this, we adjusted our i3 budget to include recruiting supplies (flyers, banners, etc.), and worked closely with the Student Academic Services office at USF to ensure that the message about UTRPP was properly shared with prospective students. Further, faculty and staff from UTRPP attended additional recruitment events and opened the program to prospective participants wishing to shadow current students