Residency Program Targets School Administrators

By Bill Dries

The growing crop of teacher residency programs in Shelby County is being followed by residency programs for school system administrators and leaders outside the classroom.


But raising a crop of those further up the management chain isn’t the same as recruiting a crop of new classroom teachers says John Troy, of the group Education Pioneers.

“K-12 education as a whole is a $600 billion sector when you look across the country. It’s the second largest workforce in the United States,” Troy said earlier this month. “You need top leaders and managers outside the classroom that are making important decisions that are backing up what teachers do each and every day.”

Founded 10 years ago, the Oakland, Calif.-based organization works in 16 cities placing school system leaders. According to Troy, 70 percent go on to work full time in education.

Education Pioneers has agreements with the state-run Achievement School District, the Tennessee Department of Education and charter school companies KIPP, Gestalt Community Schools, Promise Academy and LEAD Public Schools, among others.

“Tennessee broadly has so much going on in terms of education and education reform,” Troy said. “Memphis specifically is really the epicenter of that work in the state. When you look across the country at who are the leaders and who are the up and comers when it comes to focusing on improving public education, Memphis is at the top of that list.”

Nine fellows with Education Pioneers began a 10-week summer course this week in Memphis with more coming in the fall.

Tennessee also has a special status among other states with active education reform scenes that lends itself to the data analysts Education Pioneers wants to train and place.

It has a deeper pool of student achievement data over a longer period of time for use in evaluating teacher performance than another state in the union.

The Tennessee Value Added Assessment System (TVAAS) data tracks academic growth over time for individual students and groups of students.

Its use in evaluating teacher performance and in decisions about which teachers should be retained was a major step in education reforms approved by the Tennessee legislature during the administration of former Gov. Phil Bredesen.

The program recruits students pursuing their master’s degrees still in school and those in the business sector just out of graduate school for roles that Troy described as “the managers, the leaders, the data analysts that work outside the classroom to support the important work that teachers do each and every day.”

There is a specific program just for data analysts and a different program for those closer to the classroom functions.

“They can work in everything related to financing, developing budgets, doing policy analysis, writing the curriculum that teachers might use inside the classroom, the people doing the analysis to dig into student achievement data, teacher effectiveness data,” he added.

Troy is an example of the approach, having worked for an investment bank in New York City and doing financial analysis when he was recruited by Education Pioneers.

With no background on any kind in teaching, Troy wrote a business plan for a charter school company that was scaling up for more students in more locations.

“The skill set required to write a business plan that allows them to plan their growth for the future is a very different type of skill set then what it takes to be an excellent teacher,” he said.

The teacher residency programs bringing new teachers to Memphis are also looking at college students who in many cases are not considering teaching. But those residency programs include teacher training.

“What sometimes people don’t always think about, though, is that these teachers operate as part of a larger eco system,” Troy said. “They are part of organizations that are run by leaders that are tackling extremely challenging situations.”

For the coming school year, Education Pioneers will work outside the consolidated school system.