by Harry and Rosemary Wong
How to Retain New Teachers
New teachers come into the profession having invested years of their lives and tens of thousands of dollars with the vision of making a difference in the lives of young people. It is a crime when they are just thrown into a classroom with no training or support.
If what teachers know about teaching is
learned on the job,
then why not systematically teach
new teachers on the job
with a sustained induction program?
Effective induction programs not only retain highly qualified new teachers, they also ensure that these teachers are teaching effectively from the very first day of school.
The most compelling and successful way to keep good teachers is with a structured and sustained induction program that typically lasts three years. Induction is the process of preparing, supporting, and retaining new teachers. It includes all of the things done to support new teachers and to acculturate them to teaching, insuring their success from their very first day of teaching, and introducing them to the responsibilities, missions, and philosophies of their schools and districts.
People crave connection. New teachers want more than a job. They want hope. They want to contribute to a group. They want to make a difference. Induction programs provide that connection because they are structured around a learning community where new and veteran teachers treat each other with respect and all contributions are valued.
Mentoring Is Not Induction
The terms "induction" and "mentoring" are often used interchangeably to describe what happens to a new teacher. It must be clarified that induction and mentoring are not the same. Induction is an organized, sustained, multiyear program structured by a school or district, of which mentoring may be an integral component. Induction is a group process, one that organizes the expertise of educators within the shared values of a culture. Mentoring is a one-on-one process, concerned with simply supporting individual teachers.
We must stop trying to portray mentoring as the effective stand-alone method for supporting and retaining teachers. In far too many instances, a mentor is simply a veteran teacher who has been haphazardly selected by the principal and assigned to a new teacher, resulting in a "blind date," as Jon Saphier (2001) calls it in his book, Beyond Mentoring. Sharon Feiman-Nemser (1996), in her ERIC Digest article writes that after 20 years of experimenting with mentoring as a process for helping new teachers, few comprehensive studies exist to validate its effectiveness.
Mentors can offer valuable support during a new teacher's initial year, but mentoring is not a sustained process. Mentors are important, but they are an isolated episode for one year in a new teacher's life. To be effective, mentors need to be a component of the induction process.
Induction is a comprehensive, structured, and sustained group process that fosters a true learning community by continuing to provide support and training to new teachers into their tenure. Induction is a lifelong experience, a process that teaches the social and cultural practices that center around learning---what it means to be a learner and what it means to help others learn.
Elements of a Successful Induction Program
- Begin with an initial four or five days of training (in classroom management and effective teaching techniques) before school begins.
- Offer a continuum of professional development through systematic training over a period of two or three years.
- Provide study groups where new teachers can network and build support, commitment, and leadership in a learning community.
- Incorporate a strong sense of administrative support.
- Integrate a mentoring component into the induction process.
- Present a structure for modeling effective teaching during in-services and mentoring.
- Provide opportunities for inductees to visit demonstration classrooms.
Joan Hearne of the Wichita, Kansas, public schools says, "As a central office staff developer, I truly believe in the induction process. If you do not transmit the district's culture, mission, and beliefs as employees join the family, then when do you?"
The Why and Who of Induction
- Purpose of Induction
Induction provides 1) easier transition into teaching, 2) training for classroom effectiveness, and 3) the retention of highly qualified teachers.
- Who Provides Induction?
Induction is provided by the district and is typically organized by a group of administrators, staff developers, and mentor teachers. If you are a new teacher looking for a teaching job, you need to ask if the district has an induction program. These districts care that you succeed. You need to care that you succeed.
Not to provide induction is like
asking a pilot to learn how to fly
while taking a plane load of passengers
up for the first time.
Three Successful Induction Programs
The following three school districts have highly successful new teacher induction programs. Their results speak volumes! Of the new teachers hired in the 2001-2002 school year, they
retained 143 out of 148 in the Newport-Mesa School District, California,
retained 45 out of 46 in the Lafourche Parish Schools, Louisiana, and
retained 65 out of 68 in the Islip Public Schools, New York.
Newport-Mesa Schools. Christina Jurenko, director of the induction program at this school district in California, reports that the retention rate of new teachers was 85 percent in 1997. When they installed a two-year induction program, patterned after California's Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment model, their retention rate increased and is now at 97 percent. They foster an atmosphere where teachers want to learn and continue to grow as professionals. They sponsor teachers who want to learn at conferences. New teachers, veteran teachers, and administrators must attend in groups, because the district's focus is on teamwork with lots of study groups. With such a high retention rate, where 143 stayed out of the last 148 hired, the benefit is obvious--teachers stay with a district that values their contributions.
Lafourche Schools. Elmo Broussard, superintendent of this Louisiana school system says, "Our new teachers became highly successful and all were coming back the following year. This had never happened until we implemented an induction program."
Meetings are frequent with the new teachers: 4 days in early August, 1 day in late August, each month onsite with their facilitators, each month at the district level for support group, weekly meetings with new teachers and mentors, ongoing observations all year, two more days in January to prepare them for State Assessment, and another full day in April for an induction review. The focus is on classroom management, instructional strategies, the Louisiana Components of Effective Teaching, and addressing the new teachers' individual needs. Veteran teachers serve as their mentors, as curriculum facilitators, as teachers of demonstration classrooms, and, of course, are always onsite to help whenever necessary.
All of these activities benefit new teachers by training them to handle the challenges of the classroom and ensuring that they are meeting Louisiana's standards so as to pass the State's Assessment. Over 99 percent of the new teachers who have participated in its induction program have successfully completed the performance-based Louisiana Teacher Assistance and Assessment Program required for teacher certification in the state. Lafourche is training and keeping its good teachers.
The Lafourche induction program is so successful that the Louisiana Department of Education has adopted it as the model for the entire state. Information on Louisiana's induction program is available on the Internet at www.doe.state.la.us/DOE/OQE/
Islip Public Schools. Linda Lippman is the director of human resources and the director of the new teacher induction program for this New York school district. She has the dual responsibility of training the teachers she hires and her efforts have paid off. In the 1998-1999 school year before a formal induction program was installed, Islip retained 29 of the 46 new teachers hired. In the subsequent three school years from 1999 to 2002 when the formal, three-year new teacher induction program was in place, they retained 65 teachers out of 68 hired.
As part of their contract, inductees meet monthly for 90 minutes after school. The teachers are divided into groups by tenure in the district and by grade level, elementary (K-5) or secondary (6-12), yielding six groups. Study group activities, lead by veteran teachers and district curriculum leaders, focus on skill-building strategies such as hosting parent-teacher night, conducting conferences, implementing classroom management, crafting lesson plans, and using cooperative discipline. They constantly work on team building and problem solving techniques with model lessons and sharing sessions where they "steal" from each other, networking, and building respect with each other---veteran teachers and the administration.
The skill-building activities are aligned to the standards required by the district. The benefits to the teachers are evident, because the Islip schools have seen a concomitant improvement in student achievement, which the central office views as resulting from improved teacher performance. The difference in student achievement is shown below.
80 students enrolled
in Advanced Placement
classes with 50%
achieving 3 or higher
120 students enrolled
in Advanced Placement
classes with 73%
achieving 3 or higher
Because new teachers want to be part of a team and part of a culture, the focus of induction is on training. The major role of the trainers is to immerse new teachers in the district's culture and to unite them with everyone in the district as a cohesive, supportive instructional team. New teachers quickly become a part of the district's "family."
What keeps good teachers are structured, sustained, intensive professional development programs that allow new teachers to observe others, to be observed by others, and to be part of networks or study groups where all teachers share together, grow together, and learn to respect each other's work.
"Assessing and Supporting New Teachers." (2002). Southeast Center for Teaching Quality. Available at www.teachingquality.org.
Breaux, Annette and Harry Wong. (2003). New Teacher Induction: How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers. Available at www.effectiveteaching.com.
"New Teacher Excellence: Retaining Our Best." (2002). Alliance for Excellent Education. Available at www.all4ed.org.
"Supporting New Teachers" and other articles and links. Available at www.NewTeacher.com.
The Project on the Next Generation of Teachers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Available at www.gse.harvard.edu.
The True Benefit of Induction
It's simple yet so profound---it is the teacher who holds the key to student achievement. Induction is a mechanism for improving the quality of teachers. The process must become a priority---for the sake our students. They deserve no less than the very best.
Editor's note: For information about the just-released book, New Teacher Induction: How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers by Annette Breaux and Harry K. Wong see the Spotlight at teachers.net/gazette/FEB03/spotlight.html
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