As the shortage of teachers grows toward crisis proportions, the nation’s schools struggle against the double burdens of hiring new, well-prepared teachers and preventing them from leaving the profession. Many schools, particularly those in urban areas, have turned to formal programs to train and support junior teachers as a way to ease into what many consider a year or a break, according to a new study. The study confirms that the scope and quality of these induction programs have gained unprecedented importance in meeting the national demand for teachers.
The rate of attrition among new teachers is fueling the staffing needs of schools. Nationally, more than 19 percent of new teachers leave the classroom within three years. Approximately 11 percent drop out of the first year of teaching alone. This is part of the reason why 198,000 new teachers are expected to be needed annually over the next decade, with demand in urban areas so high.
School districts that responded to a new survey reported an average retention rate of 89 percent for teachers participating in their induction programs. The data unequivocally shows the importance of induction programs in helping to reduce high teacher turnover and in bridging the gap between teacher preparation and the reality of the classroom.
Although more new teachers are receiving support, mentoring, and formal training in their crucial first year in the classroom, how they define their induction experience varies widely, according to the study. Despite widespread acceptance of the notion of formal induction, the quality and scope of the programs range “from comprehensive to rapid”.
The study found, for example, that mentoring by veteran teachers is one of the most common activities that school districts cite as part of their induction programs. But the roles, responsibilities, training, and deployment of mentors vary greatly across different school systems. In addition, not all provinces offer issuance time, stipends, graduate credits, tuition, or other incentives to mentors. While 88 percent of school districts described their programs as “formal, in-depth, and sustainable,” more than a quarter said their programs do not serve all new teachers.
In education, educators who go from beginner to seasoned professional often do so by single-handedly navigating uncharted waters. What the experience of new teachers is in stark contrast to the experiences of resident physicians, paralegals, and even junior basketball players, who are required to undergo lengthy training, development, and mentoring during their induction periods. Areas of continuing professional development are just as important as the formative years.
Nationally, more than 49 percent of first-year public school teachers participate in some type of induction program, while the participation rate rises to 58 percent for new teachers hired to work in urban schools.
The study found that introductory programs improve new teachers’ knowledge, skills, and performance, provide personal support, familiarize new teachers with the standards and procedures of the school system, and introduce them to the values of the school system. While states have become more active in lobbying for teacher quality, school districts have taken the lead in creating and coordinating induction programs, with or without state funding. The study found that 79 percent of the programs were run by school district employees, usually without higher education (or other) partners.
Among the recommendations for federal, state, and local policymakers and school leaders to consider as they develop policies and strategies to meet the needs of beginning educators are:
View induction as a multi-year developmental process. Recruits have different needs as they go through stages of their professional development, from basic survival to teacher leadership.
Train managers so they understand how to direct and support recruits. Managers need to be trained in effective ways to create supportive working conditions, develop mentoring and informal support relationships, assign classes, and recognize and address trainees’ occupational needs.
Establish a first-class mentoring program supported by sufficient funding to serve all eligible recruits. A formal process should be put in place to identify and train highly qualified teachers in the classroom to work with and mentor the agitators on a regular basis. Mentors should be given time to observe, train, offer lessons, and attend meetings. They should be offered a stipend to cover their time and materials, assistance from area coordinators, and annual appraisals.
Link new teacher assessments to district and state standards. Instigators’ performance appraisals should be formative (for improvement) and summative (for decisions about employment status).
Investing in technology to facilitate communication between teachers. Email, online forums, and bulletin boards are easy and inexpensive ways for recruits to share ideas, concerns, encouragement, and connect with mentors, program directors, and university faculty.
Evaluating the effectiveness of induction in solving the problem of attrition and building teacher competence. Effective programs require regular evaluation of all program components and desired outcomes.
The new study is based on 209 usable responses from a survey of 985 school districts in large cities and towns. Districts were located in 36 states and the District of Columbia. As part of their study, the researchers conducted a review of the existing literature on induction programs and visited the programs in 16 major cities. Those cities were: Albuquerque. Cincinnati. chicago; Clark County (Las Vegas); Jefferson County (Louisville); Los Angeles; Minneapolis. Norfolk. Rochester. and San Diego.
Our challenge, as a nation, is to prepare and sustain the best teachers in the world. All teachers must participate in an ongoing collaborative and comprehensive effort to improve their teaching skills and increase the achievement of their students.
The new legislation would create a new formula program to fund skills and leadership training for mentors, to ensure mentors have the skills to assist our newest educators, as well as group teaching, peer monitoring and coaching, curriculum-based content coaching, and time for collaborative lesson planning. The legislation will also provide opportunities for teachers to visit other classrooms as a model for effective teaching practice; training to integrate technology into the classroom, address the specific needs of diverse students and involve parents; and partnerships between primary and secondary schools and higher education institutions to provide advanced training opportunities.