Richmond Public Schools, VSU, VUU Teacher Residency Initiative is Promising

RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras

by James C. Sherlock

The Richmond Public Schools RVA Men Teach program has partnered with Virginia State and Virginia Union Universities to create a HBCU (Historically Black College/University) Teacher Residency program for male minority teachers.

As a long time observer and sometime critic of RPS, I congratulate it and the two universities for this initiative.

The benefits for minority children, and in fact all children, of having male role models in their classrooms are both self evident and well documented.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has reported that about 76% of public school teachers were female and 24% were male in 2017–18, with a lower percentage of male teachers at the elementary school level (11%) than at the secondary school level (36%).

This RPS/VUU/VSU initiative represents a promising effort to increase the supply of male teachers. I congratulate them for it.

HBCU Teacher Residency program residents with any bachelor’s degree will work as long-term substitute teachers in Richmond public schools and be paid up to $28 an hour while earning a Masters Degree in elementary education or special education from one of the two universities.

Minimum Hiring & University Program Standards:

  • Bachelor’s degree or the equivalent in experience in the field of education
  • A passion for children/young people and teaching
  • Excellent oral, written, and interpersonal communication skills
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Ability to work efficiently and independently,
  • Passion to become a teacher leader for high-need schools,
  • Demonstrates experience working in a diverse environment, with a strong commitment to VSU/VUU and cultural responsiveness.
  • Candidate commits to 3 years of teaching in Richmond or Petersburg after receiving their Master’s in Education with the school division

Crucially, the program reports that what seem to be the right levels of support after graduation are in place.

HBCUs and minority teachers. HBCU’s are providing minority teachers at a far higher rate than other institutions of higher learning.

The summary of findings of a 2016 Department of Education study in 2016 found, among other things, that individuals of color were much better represented in colleges in general than in education schools of those same colleges. It also found an enormous disparity in graduation rates.

Like completion rates in other fields of study, bachelor’s degree completion rates for students who major in education are lower for black and Hispanic students than for white students.

Seventy-three percent of bachelor’s degree students majoring in education completed a bachelor’s degree six years after beginning postsecondary education.

Forty-two percent of black bachelor’s degree students majoring in education completed a bachelor’s degree six years after beginning postsecondary education.

Forty-nine percent of Hispanic bachelor’s degree students majoring in education completed a bachelor’s degree six years after beginning postsecondary education.

The same study reported that HBCUs and alternative routes to teacher certification tend to enroll a more racially diverse population of teacher candidates. Supporting data from the same DOE study:

Two percent of individuals who are preparing to be teachers are enrolled at HBCUs, but 16 percent of all black teacher candidates attend HBCUs.

Alternative routes to teacher certification tend to enroll more racially diverse populations of candidates than traditional teacher preparation programs.

Forty-two percent of teacher candidates enrolled in an alternative teacher preparation program not based in an IHE were individuals of color.

Thirty-five percent of teacher candidates enrolled in an alternative teacher preparation program based in an IHE were individuals of color.

Fewer teacher candidates enrolled in a traditional teacher preparation program (26 percent) were individuals of color.

Candidates for this program can access VSU’s education school and that of Virginia Union  online.

My take. The HBCU Teacher Residency program for male minority teachers seems to me to be spot on.

With proper leadership and management over time, it can make a positive difference in the lives of children in Richmond and Petersburg.

I wish them well in both their recruiting and execution of the effort. I hope to be able to follow up as the program matures.

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10 responses to “Richmond Public Schools, VSU, VUU Teacher Residency Initiative is Promising”

  1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    This looks promising. Free master’s degree and getting paid to earn it.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      The program is targeting a real problem – lack of good male minority teachers, especially in elementary schools. I wish them well.

    2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      The participating will not be getting paid to earn the master’s degree, he will be getting paid to be a long term substitute teacher. That is not a stipend; rather that is work.

      1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead

        Nobody paid me to do student teaching. I had to pay for that. In fact it cost me about 6 grand. That was in 1993. Nice little perk Richmond has going.

    3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Do both of you interpret this as RPS paying for the master’s degree? There is nothing on the RPS website that even hints that it will do so. If it does not, I see no incentive for anyone to participate in the program, especially because a participant would have to (1) be a long term substitute teacher, at regular substitute pay, while taking master’s degree courses, and (2) commit to teach for Richmond for three years.

      1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        I do not see nor did I write of any indication that the degree is free. I will note that graduate education degrees at HBCUs tend to be less expensive than at other schools.

        These students can borrow the money for graduate school and have the loan forgiven under either the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (forgives the remaining balance on your Federal Direct Loans after 120 qualifying payments (10 years).) or more likely in this case the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program. That program forgives up to $17,500 of a student’s Direct or FFEL Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans after 5 complete and consecutive years of teaching at a qualifying school (like RPS and Petersburg public schools).

        The primary incentive is for a man with a degree in something other than education. He will be paid as a full time substitute teacher in the RPS while earning the degree, and then be hired and paid at the relatively higher salary of a full time teacher with a graduate degree.

        If a man wants to be a teacher, that is a pretty good package deal and guaranteed employment.

  2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Just so no one gets the wrong idea, I think this concept is terrific. However, there seems to be some confusion created by conflicting communication.

    Rodney Robinson says it is a free masters. Like me, James Sherlock cannot find any mention of it in the RPS announcement. If tuition is included, the district would increase the interest in the program by saying so.

    Robinson refers to a paid internship. The RPS website calls it a long-term substitute teacher. There is a big difference. With an internship, one is supervised and mentored. A long-term substitute is often on his own and is responsible for everything related to teaching the class, from developing lesson plans, to teaching, to creating tests, to grading papers, to processing various reports.

    If the program does not pay for tuition and books for the master’s program, an individual would be better off getting some loans and finishing the master’s program in a year, and then have the pick of school districts to sign on with.

    James, under what program did you do your student teaching? Many years ago, my wife was a student teacher. She did not have to pay for it, as such. It was part of her credit hours for her education major.

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      Rodney Robinson is running RVA Men Teach for Kamras. He was a teacher of the year in 2019. I think they made a good choice in selecting him to run the program. I heard him speak once and you can easily get caught up in his love of teaching. Not sure who is right? Robinson or RPS. Looks like they are just getting started so maybe they have not ironed out the details.

      So I went to VPI. The seminar and internship was 17 credit hours. I essentially paid VPI to let me drive to Roanoke and take over somebody else’s class. I did all of the planning, teaching, grading, the works. Dr. Lang, the lady I worked with, loved it. She considered those 6 months a paid vacation. I considered it an internship I had to pay for. It was worth it. What I learned from Dr. Lang was useful and withstood all of the changes in education that I saw over 27 years. I think I was lucky too. Some student teachers had some duds to work for and gained little from the experience.

      If teacher recruiting and licensure is such a big deal maybe we should pay people to jump the hoops to licensure.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        That is distressing to learn that Robinson is running RVA Men Teach. I am sure that he will be very good at the job, but this seems to be another example of the unfortunate trend in Virginia schools–move the good teachers out of the classroom into administrative posts. It would be better to pay them the additional money and keep them in the classroom.

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