Clemson to Use $2.39 Million from Department of Education to Expand Teacher Residency Across the State
The Clemson University College of Education’s teacher residency program will expand to school districts in the Pee Dee region thanks to a $2.39 million award from the U.S. Department of Education. The project will place 16 teacher residents in participating districts in the region each year for four years, paying each a $25,000 living stipend during their residency year when the students are placed with mentor teachers.
College leaders expect that most of the educators taking advantage of this stipend will be those pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) online from Clemson. These students — often career changers coming into education with a bachelor’s degree in another field — will be afforded the same opportunity as undergraduate students in the residency program and enjoy additional support to spend a year with a mentor teacher while earning their MAT degree.
The students will spend a full academic year of residency with an experienced mentor teacher who continuously gathers data about a resident’s progress to provide targeted support and feedback. Teacher residents in the Pee Dee districts will receive the $25,000 stipend and move from a collaborative, co-teaching role in the classroom to an increasingly responsible, lead-teaching role.
According to Laura Eicher, principal investigator for the project and director of the teacher residency program, the program’s expansion will help increase the number of diverse, highly trained teachers in rural, underserved districts and make the college’s successful residency model available to more students and communities in the state.
“We are essentially creating a satellite Clemson location dedicated to teacher residency in the Pee Dee, and making the program more attractive to career changers and those from other fields who want to pursue a career in teaching without interrupting their careers,” Eicher said. “Our staff, residents, and mentor teachers will all be there to create the same high-quality mentor-mentee relationship that positively affects our residents, the schools in which they train, and the students they serve.”
In addition to the U.S. Department of Education’s grant funds, the expansion of the college’s successful teacher residency program was supported by the Eugene T. Moore School of Education endowment, a gift from the college’s principal donor, Darla Moore. Moore’s initial support and investment helped to successfully launch the program at Clemson. Her continued support and that of other donors have allowed the program to improve and expand since its inception.
In addition to the $25,000 stipend for residents, the grant’s funding will provide training for mentor teachers who will complete two graduate courses, a summer professional development institute, and schoolwide professional development in STEM through Clemson’s Science Outreach Center.
For residents, the additional funding will provide access to an online training program that supports new teachers completing Praxis tests; exams used to certify new teachers in South Carolina. It will also offer three years of post-graduation support for residents.
“There is a great deal for teachers to learn in their first years in the field regardless of the amount of preparation in their undergraduate and graduate years,” Eicher said. “The monthly seminars and support built into this project will only add to the proven benefits of the yearlong residency experience.”
Declining teacher recruitment and retention trends were the impetus to start the program and remain the primary motivator. According to data from the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement, the 2022-2023 school year began with 1,474 vacant teaching positions in South Carolina, a 39% increase in teacher vacancies from the previous year. During this same period, one in seven educators in the state did not return to a teaching or service position in their school district. An astounding 36% of those not returning had five or fewer years of experience, making newly minted teachers the most likely to leave the profession.
Clemson is doing its part to address these numbers through programs such as teacher residency. The program has grown substantially since 2017, nearly tripling from an initial cohort of 23 students to 70 this fall. So far, the program has graduated 217 students, and 97% of those graduates became employed as teachers. The retention rate for the first three cohorts of residents is 94%.
While the expansion of residency is meaningful for the program, it also marks another example of support for the college from external funders. Altogether, the college has received more than $37.2 million in external funding over the last two years to support students, teachers, counselors, and leaders in schools.
Kristin M. Gehsmann, dean of the College of Education, said this level of support has been essential to launching and growing these programs. She also credits the collaborative effort and dedication shown by district partners and educational leaders who have embraced the teacher residency program since its inception.
“Our strong partnerships with school districts create a positive ripple effect throughout schools and communities,” Gehsmann said. “The expansion of Clemson’s teacher residency program is validation of what our faculty, staff, and partners have known for years: residency works. The program produces positive learning outcomes for students and well-prepared, impactful teachers who stay in the classroom; those teachers contribute to the vibrancy of school communities. It’s a wonderful example of our college fulfilling Clemson’s land-grant mission to improve lives through education and outreach in our state.”
Participating districts include Darlington School District, Florence 1 School District, Florence 3 School District, Georgetown School District, and Marion School District. Clemson started the residency program in 2017, making it the first university-led teacher residency program in South Carolina.