Why Richmond Teacher Residency Matters

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Why RTR Matters

It’s not an equal playing field until your players get on it.

The Context
In the 21st century, America’s urban school districts face unique challenges, from the legacies of the desegregation struggle, to the problems of poverty, to the growing diversity of student populations representing many cultures, languages and needs.

In Richmond, Virginia, Richmond Public Schools (RPS) serve nearly 25,000 students in 29 elementary, 9 middle and 8 high schools.  The ethnic and racial background of district students is 83% African descent, 7% Latina/o, 1% Asian, and 9% white.  Three quarters of all students are eligible for free and reduced lunch.  Thirty-five percent of the students in RPS live in households that are 100% below the federal poverty level, more than half of parents in Richmond are single parents, and the median income of families in RPS is less than 60% of the average in the greater Richmond area.

Do More With Less
Adding to the complexity of responding to the considerable need in urban education is often the double bind created when funding is not adequate to meet significant challenges.  In Richmond, a city of 205,533, the public school budget was slashed by $30 million in 2012. Although budget cuts have been a common plight for many districts post-2008, urban systems were often already at a funding disadvantage in comparison to more affluent school districts.

Urban Students Short-changed
Plagued by high teacher attrition rates, urban schools are often scrambling to fill classrooms. As a result, students in urban school districts are frequently short-changed by classrooms staffed with poorly prepared teachers, teachers teaching out of their field, teachers with no experience, and teachers who are not licensed to teach. Studies consistently demonstrate that ineffective teachers have a significant and negative impact on students’ academic gains that is difficult to reverse.

Urban Students Deserve Better
“I was hired to teach math in inner city Miami, even though I was not qualified to teach the subject.  This would never have happened in a suburban school district.  While I knew how to do fifth grade math, I didn’t understand the discipline of mathematics well enough to diagnosis problems that my students were having.  If they didn’t understand how to do the math problem the first way I explained it, my only “alternative” strategies were to speak louder or more slowly.  I had the heart for teaching urban students, but not the content expertise.  Urban students deserve better.”
Dr. Therese A. Dozier, Director, Richmond Teacher Residency

Richmond students deserve the same chance as everybody else
We know that the quality of the teacher is the single most important in-school factor determining how well a student performs.  Our program is specifically designed to bring to RPS persons of all ages who have extensive content knowledge, along with the heart and the vision to create a more equitable outcome for all students.  Through a nationally ranked graduate-level teacher education program and an intensive, medical-school-style residency, RTR integrates theory and practice so that our residents are equal to the task ahead.  Our aim is to prepare outstanding teachers – because our students deserve the very best.

Why it matters
Any attempt to end educational inequities will not succeed unless there is a change in how we prepare and retain exceptional talent to meet the unique challenges of urban education. Our goal is to build a pipeline to bring highly effective teachers to the classroom who not only are committed to getting their students onto the playing field, but who also have the knowledge and skills to coach their students to hit the ball out of the park. We are a movement to teach for change so that all students and our community can be lifted up from inside our classrooms.

Urban schools. They demand the best. They challenge the best. They require the best.  This is why we Teach for Change.