Minneapolis Public Schools

Report date
November 2016

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

One of the most instrumental activities in the creation of the Minneapolis Residency Program (MRP) was the collaboration with the National Center for Teacher Residencies (formerly Urban Teacher Residency United). NCTR is an organization with a network of residency programs across the country. They were an invaluable resource in the initial visioning of the program and played a crucial role in getting MRP up and running. They provided a detailed scope and sequence for the planning and launching of the program that drove much of the work. They are a continued partner of MRP, assisting in goal setting, problem-solving and serving as a connector to other residencies in their network.
The partnership of Minneapolis Public Schools and the University of Minnesota is the backbone of the program. The two teams came together to create a common vision. A variety of MRP design teams were created with people from both institutions represented to ensure that the work was collaborative and many voices were heard. Staff from both institutions were able to attend seminars and training to help guide the work using common language and common experiences. Curriculum and clinical experiences were developed together, with respect to the expertise of each member of the team, in order to create a strong program that prepared Minneapolis employees to succeed in both the classroom and in coursework. The strength of that partnership continues to push the program towards excellence.
It was incredibly important for staff from both institutions to be "on the ground" alongside the educators who were navigating their way through the program as it unfolded. Staff regularly visited the residents at their school sites and actively participated in their coursework. Through that direct connection, staff was able to understand the challenges and successes of each resident. As a result, when common challenges were uncovered the staff was prepared to adjust and make improvements on a faster timeline. Our evaluation team took the time to interview all of the residents as well as cooperating teachers in order to get to the small details to guide the momentum of the program.

Key lessons learned

One of the key lessons that we learned was around the staffing structure of the program. As it was created and initially implemented there were a larger number of people who were all working on it part time while also juggling other work with the district or the University. As a result there were some communication difficulties and lack of clarity on roles. The team quickly realized that the structure had the potential to become a barrier to the success of the residents. As a result, the staffing structure changed so that we now have 5 team members who are full-time on the program. This has proven to create a very streamlined process of communication and support for the residents. We are finding that we are able to anticipate challenges and respond more quickly than in the first year of the program.
The initial creation of the University curriculum was comprehensive but lacked structure for the residents. Residents attend class one dull day a week and the schedule was set up with the goal of exposure to multiple subjects on a rolling basis. For example, one week was Science and Equity, the next week was Literacy and Special ed and the following week was something else. Since each class was taught over the course of the year, the residents ended up in the position of having all major assignments due in Spring. This proved to be a significant challenge for the residents as they were at the point of teaching nearly full-time and were also preparing for the EdTPA. Upon reflection with the residents, the structure of courses for this school year has changed significantly. One subject matter is a focus for a few weeks and then they move on to the next. This also allows for the schedule of assignments to be spread out throughout the year which is proving to be more manageable for the residents.

Reflections on the community innovation process

I believe that the strength of collaboration between the district, the University and a variety of community stakeholders was a crucial part of creating a successful program. It was a significant undertaking that would have been overwhelming to take on without solid relationships. This continued collaboration and shows of support will help us work to strengthen our current structure as well as expand to reach an even bigger network that can participate in implementing change. The visions of our many collaborators are innovative and inspiring as look to the future.

Progress toward an innovation

The Minneapolis Residency Program has made tremendous progress towards achieving innovation in addressing the need of our community. The graduates of the program and the current cohort of residents are a diverse group of educators whose demographics mirror that of the student population in MPS. Our current pool of applicants for cohort 3 continues to reflect that diversity that the program was built to serve. Community members and local stakeholders speak highly of the program and continue to promote the work. The school district has funds committed towards the program for the next year and we continue to see interest from local funders. This program has set the bar for what is possible in our district and continues to grow stronger.

What it will take to reach an innovation?

I believe that we achieved an innovation and look forward to expanding upon the program to see what other innovation could be possible.

If you could do it all over again...

This question is challenging for me to answer because I was not here at the start of the process but I believe that one of the biggest learnings was that this would be a continual learning experience for everyone involved. It's not ever going to be "set." We need to be flexible and prepared to move with the tide and respond to the needs of the community. I believe that would have been important to know so that the original staff would have felt less pressure to get it "right" the first time. To know it will always be a continual process gives permission to be innovative and avoid getting wrapped up in the technical details.

One last thought

I know that this grant was instrumental in the creation of this program. As a result, we've been able to guide excited educators through a challenging process with a tremendous amount of support and guidance. Our students are seeing more faces that look like them at the front of the class and are getting the support that they need. The gift of this grant started the path to change many lives for the better.