Frequently Asked Questions
The First Year
1. How will my schedule work with Sposato and the first-year residency/fellowship experience?
During the first year at Sposato, students are also residents, fellows, or associate teachers in a high-performing, high-poverty school in Boston. This first year involves at least 40 hours per week of direct work inside of a school. That work might include tutoring, assisting teaching, leading clubs or enrichment programs, participating in team meetings, coaching a sport, etc. It's a full week of real work in a real school.
On evenings and Saturdays, from September to June, trainees learn about the nuts and bolts of teaching, log hundreds of hours of practice, and receive high doses of expert coaching. In July, trainees finish their student teaching by teaching summer school, Monday through Friday.
2. How does tutoring help me prepare to be a teacher?
The tutoring experience is a foundational aspect of learning for future teachers. We believe this allows trainees to develop some intuitive understanding of "how kids learn" by separating out all of the complexities introduced when teaching 20 or more students at once. In particular, experiencing hard-won success with challenging students allows each trainee to realize that all kids can learn to high levels.
3. How many trainees who start the Sposato program in August actually finish the first year and go on to teach full-time? Why/when do people exit the program?
We expect roughly two-thirds of the people who start on Day 1 to complete year one of the program.
The one-third who leave mostly do so because they discover through their year in schools that classroom teaching, or teaching in the types of schools that we’re preparing people for, isn’t for them. They don’t leave their positions in their schools; they just exit the Sposato Graduate School of Education.
Others exit the program due to performance struggles – i.e. they’re not developing quickly enough as teachers, even after lots of coaching and training. These individuals also complete their residency/fellowship year in the schools where they are working.
Sposato vs Other Available Routes
1. How does this program compare to traditional graduate schools?
First, our program is context-specific: We're preparing you for a particular type of high-performing urban public school. These schools, like the schools where teachers hold their residencies, have the same college prep mission for inner-city kids.
Second, our team is essentially asking your permission to coach you; if you accept an offer to join us, you're granting that permission. We feel like we're in a race to prepare you so that once you become a full-time teacher, you're unusually well prepared. A traditional Ed School might be a better fit for you if you're looking for a broad intellectual exploration of teaching. In our program, it will be more akin to music or sports training you've gotten – the coaching is very prescriptive.
Third, and no joke: our program is tough. It's entirely possible to do well in all the academic aspects of this program, and still not get a license or a master’s degree – you need to succeed with the actual students, measured in various ways. We want you to "know what you're getting into." But the program is not tough for the heck of it either. Many teachers in urban schools find their first year incredibly stressful. We want you prepared so that your first full-time year goes much better than normal.
Finally, practice, practice, practice: Whereas students at traditional education schools spend more time writing papers and reading theory, Sposato students spend more hours practicing the specific moves that make first year teachers successful. Again, this is not unlike what you may have experienced learning music or sports – practicing scales or left-handed layups.
2. How does Sposato compare to Teach For America, Boston Teacher Residency, etc.
TFA is a great program. After summer training, you are deployed immediately as a full-time teacher. Our program invests a full year of training, with the goal of becoming a terrific new teacher. We tend to admit residents who are similar in mindset and academics to TFA. See here for more discussion of how Sposato compares to TFA.
The Boston Teacher Residency (BTR) is also terrific – they're preparing folks for the traditional Boston Public Schools. You commit to teaching in BPS for three years. There are other similar "urban teacher residencies" around the nation.
3. What kind of support do 2nd year students get in Boston? What about outside the greater Boston area?
All 2nd year students, regardless of their geographic location, are enrolled in our distance-learning course with an assigned MET coach who is their point person for discussing their class and MET action plans, all of which are centered around improving through feedback.
For the students that are in the Boston area, our staff is able to provide additional in person coaching in August-October. Students who take teaching jobs outside of the greater Boston area (about 25% of our most recent cohort) don’t receive any in-person coaching or support.
1. What is the teaching license that I can earn through Sposato?
Sposato students can earn a Massachusetts “Initial” license to teach Math or English in (grades 5–8 or grades 8–12) Elementary (grades 1-6), General Science (5-8) and History (5-12).
2. Are Massachusetts licenses transferrable to other states?
License transferability is complicated (another reminder that education is run on the state and local levels). Massachusetts is part of something called the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement which means that there are a number of states that automatically recognize Massachusetts licenses. However, there are sometimes certain restrictions associated with “alternative” programs such as ours (“alternative” in contrast to “traditional” university-based programs).
For example, we’ve successfully placed a number of our graduates in New York City charter schools, but the state of NY doesn’t accept a license from an alternative program unless the candidate has 3 years of teaching experience. In this case, the charter schools where they were hired have a partnership with the Relay Graduate School of Educations that allows teachers to work toward NY licensure during their first two years of teaching. So these teachers had more preparation work to do, but the licensure mismatch didn’t prevent them from getting great jobs in great schools.
The bottom line is that while we cannot guarantee that your licensure will transfer if you move out of state (after first teaching in Boston for a few years, we hope), we can guarantee that your training will.
3. What is the MTEL and why do I need to take it?
All Sposato students are required to take, and pass, the Massachusetts Tests for Educator License before they’re admitted to the practice teaching component of the program. These tests are required for Massachusetts Licenses (preliminary and initial). Even if you ultimately don’t want to teach in Massachusetts, you still need to take and pass these tests as a requirement for Sposato.
4. Which tests do I have to take?
All students also need to pass a content-specific MTEL. This test assesses your knowledge of the subject area that you’re preparing to teach. To find out what subject MTELS are required for your license, go to http://www.doe.mass.edu/mtel/testrequire.html.
5. When do I have to take these tests? And how much do they cost?
Since the test is computer-based, and offered nationally, we expect trainees to register for (and when possible complete) the tests prior to the start of the program so that you do not miss part of a training day or a working in your residency placement.
We will reimburse you for the test fees. Once you are accepted to Sposato, you will receive detailed instructions on how to get reimbursed. If you have additional concerns about the cost, please contact Clara Kang directly.
6. How do I know what to study and how long I should study?
You can visit the MTEL web site to download test information booklets: http://www.mtel.nesinc.com/MA_SG_opener.asp. In these booklets, you’ll find test objectives as well as a sample test.
These booklets are the best way to get a sense of what’s on the test – and your results on the sample test will give you a sense of how much you need to study.
You can also find some commercially available test prep guides to help you study.
There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer about what to study and how long. It depends a great deal on the courses you’ve taken in college, your reading and writing skills, and your general test-taking skills.
We think 25 hours invested this summer and early next fall is probably time very well spent – for your "Subject" MTEL in particular (the Communications & Literacy test is less challenging).
Life AftER YOUR RESIDENCY
1. Which schools hire Sposato graduates?
Most of our alumni go on to schools in the greater Boston area including Boston Preparatory Charter School, Roxbury Preparatory Charter School (Uncommon Schools), Community Day Schools Lawrence, UP Academies, Community Charter School of Cambridge, Phoenix Academies, KIPP MA and others. Others go to similar schools and school networks in New York City, Washington DC, Chicago, Denver and the Bay Area.
2. Where will the program prepare me to teach? Only in charter schools or in regular public schools as well?
First, charter schools are public schools – despite some popular misconceptions, they do not select students, and they follow all the state and federal guidelines that apply to any other public schools.
Second, Sposato graduates are expected to teach for 2 years after their residency year in a school that serves majority high-poverty students. That’s the only expectation regarding school placements, so it is indeed possible for someone to take a job in a traditional district school.
With that said, our program is 100% geared towards preparing teachers for a specific type of urban school that tends to offer a very different experience for teachers and students than the surrounding district schools. Because of that, we strongly believe that our graduates will be most effective in these types of schools. We also have great relationships with school leaders around the country, which we leverage to help our teachers get jobs. We don’t have those same types of relationships with district schools.
3. What percentage of Sposato graduates get jobs?
4. How many of your graduates stay in teaching beyond their two-year commitment?
We’re still a relatively new program, so the data here reflects only a few cohorts of graduates.
75% of the people from our first cohort stayed in teaching for a 3rd year. 84% of our second cohort stayed for a 3rd year. 96% of the graduates from our third cohort returned for a third year of teaching. 97% of the graduates from our fourth cohort returned for a third year of teaching. 100% of the graduates from our fifth cohort returned for a second year of teaching.
Our number one priority is to make sure every graduate of our program is ready to succeed in the classroom right away. We aim to reduce the “trial and error” that usually characterizes the rookie year of teaching. We think that approach will have a positive effect on retention – i.e. teachers who are successful with their students are likely to stay in the profession longer – although we don’t exclusively focus on recruiting individuals who want to teach for their entire career
5. What are some other roles Sposato alumni have played in schools after their two years?
Alumni who have remained in schools in non-teaching positions have assumed a variety of instructional and operational leadership positions. Particularly for instructional leadership, they have taught more than two years.