Grace Giampietro, a Richmond Teacher Residency participant, teaches a third grade special education class at Linwood Holton Elementary School. (Photo by Julia Rendleman, University Marketing)

Richmond Teacher Residency receives nearly $5M grant to expand, provide STEM training

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The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $4.97 million grant to expand Richmond Teacher Residency, help provisionally licensed science, technology, engineering and math teachers move toward full licensure, and provide math and science training to hundreds of local elementary and special education teachers.

Richmond Teacher Residency, a program in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education, is an intensive, school-based teacher preparation program that integrates a research-supported approach for effective teaching with real-world classroom experience. Residents teach in local schools under the mentorship of a veteran teacher, while also earning a graduate degree in either education or teaching from VCU.

At the end of the program, each resident graduates with a master’s degree, a teacher’s license and a full year’s experience in the classroom. Residents then make an additional three-year commitment to teach in a high-needs, hard-to-staff school.

The program has operated in Richmond Public Schools since 2011 and expanded into Chesterfield County Public Schools in 2017, to Petersburg City Public Schools in 2018, and will expand to Henrico County Public Schools next year. The grant also will enable the program to expand into an as-yet-to-be identified rural school district within three years.

As part of the grant, VCU SEED (Supporting Effective Educator Development), the Richmond Teacher Residency program will recruit, prepare and support 190 new highly effective teachers in the local school districts, based on their most critical staffing needs.

“The VCU SEED grant is essential in helping to meet our state’s most critical teaching shortages, not only in our partner school systems, but also as a model for expanding residency programs throughout the commonwealth of Virginia,” said Therese A. Dozier, Ed.D., director of Richmond Teacher Residency and an associate professor in the School of Education.

The grant will last for three years, with a possible two-year extension. For the full five years, the total possible funding amount is $9.15 million.

“We are so proud of RTR, their team and the faculty who are part of it,” said School of Education Dean Andrew Daire, Ph.D. “The program has become a role model of excellence in the state and this new grant will allow us to make even more of a positive impact on the teacher shortage.”

Beyond the expansion of Richmond Teacher Residency, the grant will also seek to strengthen the teaching of math and science through summer professional development opportunities for 360 elementary and special education teachers, at no cost to the teachers.

VCU SEED will offer one-week summer institutes on math and science for teachers ranging from kindergarten to high school. The institutes will be designed to strengthen the STEM content knowledge and pedagogical skills of elementary and special education teachers in high-needs schools.

Additionally, the grant will provide coursework, tutoring for licensure tests, and a two-year induction program for 60 provisionally licensed STEM teachers moving them toward full licensure and increasing their effectiveness and retention rates.

“National statistics show that STEM teachers leave at faster rates than other teachers,” Dozier said. “So the STEM-focused efforts for provisionally licensed teachers will help ensure that more STEM teachers will become fully licensed and will remain in our local school systems, especially in high-needs schools because that is where most of the provisionally licensed teachers are hired.”

The grant’s outcomes, Dozier said, will result in well-prepared and effective teachers in high-needs schools, stronger professional practice and math and science content knowledge among elementary and special education teachers, increased numbers of fully licensed, effective mathematics and science teachers who remain in high-needs schools, and increased student achievement in high-needs schools.

“The research is clear,” she said. “The quality of the teachers in our schools is the most important school-based factor in student achievement. With the changing demographics of our state and nation —  Virginia public schools are now over 50 percent minority — we can no longer ignore the inequities that exist in our community, state and nation in providing effective teachers for all students.”