Behind the Collapse of a Teacher Residency Program

In the spring of 2011, Pittsburgh Public Schools selected its first 38 recruits for a new teacher residency program.  Nearly 1,000 candidates had applied for the year-long program, which included active teaching service combined with mentoring, professional certification, and a salary of $39,000—in return for a commitment to teach in the Pittsburgh public school system for five years.  The project was contracted to The New Teacher Project (now TNTP), and all systems were go.

However, three weeks before the program was supposed to begin, TNTP had to call all of the recruits and report the bad news:  Pennsylvania was facing a $4 billion budget shortfall, and the gap was being made up by spending cuts, including heavy cuts to education spending.  The districts, in agreement with the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT), decided that spending money on a program for new recruits was not justified if existing teachers were to lose their jobs in order to fund it.  So, the program was cancelled.

The Pittsburgh residency program seemed to have all the right stuff: “a smart, proven idea; a district demand; full funding from public and private sources; a supportive organizational network; and, crucially, buy-in from a union whose members might have found the program threatening.”  The program had been held up as a national model of union-district collaboration.  In the end, however, the program is instead serving as a case study for what happens to many promising educational initiatives.  “It fell victim not just to an unforgiving economy, but, more important, to an established bureaucracy that even as it protects teachers’ livelihoods still treats them as if they are interchangeable parts.”

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has highlighted the need for more teacher education programs that have clinical practice as the cornerstone.  School districts usually rate residency programs highly, and according to UTR United, 90-95% of recruits are still in the classroom after three years—a remarkably high retention rate.  But residency programs require a commitment from the partnering district that in order to work.

To read the full story on the structure and demise of the Pittsburgh residency program, please visit