Nightly News   |  March 04, 2012

Why do good teachers leave?

Low income schools trying to retain good teachers may have come up with a solution: teacher apprentices. NBC’s Thanh Truong reports.

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>>> we're back now with news of an important new idea in educating our children. what if there were a way to bring better teachers to school districts that are struggling, and to keep them there. well, there is, and tonight we get the story from nbc's thanh truong.

>> reporter: tiffany bast is a former flight attendant in denver trying her best to become a teacher.

>> there are times when i'm in the classroom by myself i cry and i think what am i doing.

>> reporter: for help, she turns to fifth grade teacher stephanie franco.

>> it is important for me to be her guide, her coach.

>> reporter: mentor and apprentice. they're part of a fast growing trend in education called urban teacher residencies, modeled after medical residencies.

>> we think of it as this process of standing side by side with someone who is experienced, being an apprentice for a period of time.

>> reporter: in cities across the country, hundreds of rookies like bast are paired with veteran educators for one year. the aspiring teachers are paid, get thousands of dollars toward earning a masters degree , and something perhaps more valuable, real training.

>> there are good days and bad days . on my bad days , i have somebody there to help.

>> reporter: in return, the residents pledge to teach in urban schools for three to five years. low income, high needs districts, struggling to retain good teachers, often see half of them leave within a year or two after arriving. but residency programs boast the national retention rate of 85%. in the denver area, it is 96%. this woman is now in her eighth year as an urban teacher. why are you still here?

>> these kids need great teachers. they need so much support and so much love.

>> reporter: retaining teachers is one thing, improving test scores, that's another. right now it is unclear if these republican den sy program residency programs are improving student achievement.

>> as exiting programs move to scale that effectiveness will see itself out.

>> reporter: for now, the program is giving tiffany bast the confidence she needs.

>> now i'm totally comfortable standing in front of the kids and delivering a lesson.

>> reporter: while learning her own lessons on how to be an effective teacher. thanh truong, nbc news, denver .