Boston Teacher Residency Awarded Funding to Support Black Educators

We launched Boston Teacher Residency in 2003 as a joint initiative between the Boston Public Schools and Boston Plan for Excellence and designed the program to meet the evolving needs of Boston’s children and families.  We have since prepared a diverse group of over 700 teachers in high need areas such as math, science and special education.  Black students are the majority demographic group that we serve in the two Teaching Academies where we train our teacher residents. We are committed to centering the needs of Black students and families and to dismantling structural inequities in education that impede student outcomes.  The criticality of Black teachers and their impact on students is a principle upon which Boston Teacher Residency was founded, but we’ve faced obstacles in recruiting, training, retaining and supporting aspiring Black teachers due to a combination of factors resulting from historical exclusion and marginalization as well as our unintentional participation in systems and structures that make it difficult for Black teachers to succeed.  

Students at Dudley Street School

The recruitment, development and retention of Black teachers is a mandate that requires dedicated programming and resources to address. Thus, we are honored to receive, for the second time, one of 20 grants from the National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR) through their Black Educators Initiative. 

The NCTR Black Educators Initiative is a five-year, $20-million effort to recruit and train 750 new Black teachers through NCTR’s nationwide network of teacher residency programs.  As stated by NCTR, results of the program so far include: 

  • Reducing barriers for aspiring Black educators to enter and remain in the  profession; 
  • Supporting recruitment pipelines that reflect the communities of color  predominately served in Title I schools;  
  • Supporting mentor teachers to provide rigorous clinical preparation and  coaching; and 
  • Supporting programs to redesign and implement research-based practices that  improve the recruitment, selection, preparation, and support experiences of Black  educators. 

In our 2nd year as a participant in NCTR’s Black Educators Initiative,we implemented several strategies to support Black teacher residents. In collaboration with Boston Public Schools, we developed a pre-BTR content support pathway to prepare residents to pass the state licensure exam, as many strong candidates have the talent and potential to become successful teachers, but come to us with gaps in content knowledge.  The grant allows us to continue this licensure support into the residency year, including financial support to offset the prohibitive costs of test fees. 

At the center of our work this academic year to support Black teacher residents was our creation of monthly race-based groups designed to foster community among peers and offer a space for emotional support.  The effort was led by a BTR grad with deep experience in using mindfulness practices to address the trauma of racism and social inequity.  Participants shared that the groups helped build relationships during a challenging year of remote learning. One Black resident, Katherine Hepburn, shared that though most residents were Black, she was the only Black person on her grade level team at the elementary school.  In the group they explored their identities as Black teachers and reflected on challenging questions such as: “to what extent can I learn from white teachers when I know I won’t be perceived and received in the same way”? As the meeting approached each month, Katherine would ask herself if she had the time to spare to attend the 1.5 hour meeting.  “It’s the closest thing I’ve had to therapy this year. It was a very needed 1.5 hours.”

We have also learned through trial and error.  Like many residency programs participating in BEI, we started an Emergency Fund to help to offset unexpected costs which might cause a resident to drop out of the program.  Recognizing that we had set up a system which required our Black residents to self-define an emergency and to ask for assistance, we created, instead, an Enrollment Scholarship that Black residents could apply towards any expenses as they see fit. 

BTR cohort 18 graduate Brandi Dorch

Since 2003, BTR has prepared and supported more than 175 Black teachers for the Boston Public Schools.  Research bears out what we know is true: having a Black teacher has deep and long-lasting impacts on the trajectories of the students that we serve.  We are eager to continue to learn from other residency programs, and, most importantly, from Black educators, about ways that we can continue to empower them as they train to be educators in our public schools.

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