California State University Bakersfield’s (CSUB) Kern Rural Teacher Residency (KRTR) is an award-winning credential and master’s degree program designed to address the urgent need to prepare and increase the retention rate of qualified educators serving students from rural, low-income communities.

CSUB’s Department of Teacher Education developed and implemented the residency through partnerships with three Central Valley California school districts — Buttonwillow Union School District, Lamont Elementary School District, and Semitropic Elementary School District.

KRTR differs from traditional teacher preparation programs, replacing traditional coursework and student-teaching with a model based on medical residencies in which the coursework is aligned to a yearlong, co-teaching clinical placement intended to support the needs of their partner districts.

The program, funded by a Teacher Quality Partnership grant from the U.S. Department of Education, can celebrate several successes:

  • Seventy-four residents completed the program during the five-year grant period.
  • The KRTR attracted more diverse candidates than the traditional program, with 67 percent of KRTR completers being candidates of color, compared to 50 percent in the traditional program.
  • Due to the program’s high-quality preparation, the retention rate of KRTR graduates working in classrooms is 95 percent.
  • KRTR inspired the creation of three additional residency programs with other local districts in partnership with CSUB. These additional pathways have established sustainable funding models using district LCAP and university funds.

The residency’s success comes through hard work and a dedication to continuous improvement. In this Making a Difference post, Dr. Kristina LaGue, Department Chair and Professor of Teacher Education at CSUB, shares how KRTR and WestEd worked together to improve the efficacy of the residency.

The Need

As a new program, KRTR needed to know and understand what changes to make to their policies and practices to support their goal of ensuring that their graduates are thoroughly prepared to teach and take on the many challenges new teachers face.

The Work

As an evaluation partner, WestEd works to empower stakeholders to effectively serve their communities and sustain projects in the long-term. Evaluators Jaclyn Tejwani and Valentin Pedroza became active participants and thought partners with KRTR and provided guidance in areas such as the following:

  • Information needs. At the start of the evaluation, KRTR leadership and WestEd worked together to develop an evaluation study agenda to meet the information needs of the program. The research agenda included a study of teacher efficacy to teach STEM, teacher preparation, teacher effectiveness, student achievement, and school culture.
  • Data collection. Through surveys and focus groups with KRTR leadership, residents, mentors, and administrators, evaluators examined how the program was progressing, what areas were most successful, and what aspects of the program could be improved.
  • Applying evidence-based recommendations. LaGue and her team prioritized the use of data and made a number of improvements based on feedback collected through the evaluation. The most notable policy and practice changes included the addition of an ongoing mentor teacher training, moving to a placement switch during the residency, defining the target number of residents per cohort, and improving communication from the KRTR program to the residents and mentor teachers.

“WestEd collected data and provided it to us in a way that was very useful for our decision-making,” Dr. LaGue says. “The recommendations we received never felt like an overwhelming amount of work to do. We were given small, very focused, data-driven, and evidence-based guidance that we could use to improve and then later study to see if there was an impact.”

Celebrating Successes

Exit surveys with graduates of the residency illuminated the impact of the residency’s improvement efforts.

On the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) exit survey, KRTR graduates consistently rated themselves as more prepared for teaching on most dimensions than the statewide average for the items.

  • As examples, on the item, “How prepared are you to meet the instructional needs of English learners?”, 99 percent of the graduates rated themselves as well prepared or very well prepared, compared to 75 percent at the state level. And for the item, “How prepared are you to engage in culturally responsive teaching?”, 91 percent of the graduates rated themselves as well prepared or very well prepared, compared to 80 percent at the state level.

Anecdotally, KRTR graduates, mentor teachers, and school and district administrators noted their advanced preparation compared to other first-year teachers.

When the evaluators asked residents during focus groups if participating in the residency enhanced their desire to teach in a rural community, year after year, the answer was overwhelmingly in the affirmative.

KRTR residents expressed gratitude for the rural focus of the program, many of them being from rural areas themselves. Residents discussed wanting to work with students who shared their backgrounds and valued the culture of rural schools.

Evidence of the effectiveness of KRTR graduates’ teaching is demonstrated by the ability of teachers to continue working in high-needs schools. Four years after finding a teaching job, 86 percent of cohort 1 residents are still teaching, cohort 2 has a retention rate of 88 percent, and all residents in both cohorts 3 and 4 are all still teaching. And the majority of KRTR graduates are placed and continue to teach in high-needs areas within Kern County.

Due to the success of KRTR, other districts in the area expressed interest in developing their own residencies. These other districts partnered with CSUB to develop programs and now three additional residencies with three new district partners have been created: the Kern Urban Teacher Residency (with Bakersfield City School District), the Kern High Teacher Residency (with Kern High School District), and the Kern Teacher Residency-Greenfield (with Greenfield Unified School District).

And CSUB recently won the prestigious 2019 AASCU Excellence and Innovation Award for Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education for their teacher residency work. The award recognizes and honors AASCU institutions demonstrating excellence and innovation in their approach to achieving student success, regional and economic development, international education, teacher education, and leadership development and diversity.

Congratulations to Dr. Kristina LaGue and the Kern Rural Teacher Residency on their inspiring work!

Contact Project Director Jaclyn Tejwani to learn more about the Kern Rural Teacher Residency evaluation.