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Coaches Are More Effective than Mentors
The research is very specific: Well trained, proficient and effective teachers produce student learning.
|by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Special to the Gazette
February 1, 2008
Administrators—Why do you keep doing this? |
Each year schools spend $7.3 billion recruiting and hiring the same new teachers to replace the same teachers hired the year before. They are given a mentor, yet the attrition rate stays the same and student learning does not improve. When the next new teacher is hired, they are given a mentor, too. No one ever stops and analyzes why the pattern keeps repeating itself.
New Teachers—Why do you keep doing this?
In which district would you like to work?
Hopewell’s Formula for New Teacher Success
Linda Hyslop, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction in the Hopewell City Schools in Virginia, says, “We cannot promise our new teachers big bucks like the surrounding big school divisions but we can offer support and quality staff development. As a result, teachers return to teach in Hopewell after leaving for what they thought would be happiness by making more money.”
The Hopewell City Schools is a highly distinguished Title 1 school system and a Standard and Poor’s Outstanding School Division. Hopewell has had a large turnover in the last three years due to retirement and licensure issues. Thus, the induction program takes on greater importance. The reason Hopewell succeeds with its new teachers and its students is because they have a comprehensive new teacher induction program.
Comprehensive training programs are the norm for most jobs. Ask the fire chief, the store manager, or hospital executive what they do with new employees. Ask the baseball manager, construction foreman, or senior partner in a law firm what they do. Ask the workforce at Domino’s Pizza, Starbucks, The Cheesecake Factory, and McDonalds. They all will tell you that every employee is trained. And in most cases, the training continues until the employee leaves the company.
Even the best educated of new employees need on-the-job training. Despite completing college and medical school, doctors spend years working as hospital residents before entering private practice. Newly elected judges, armed with law degrees and years of experience, attend judicial college before assuming the bench. Pilots receive initial training and recurrent training every time they change positions, such as from co-pilot to pilot, and when they fly a different type of plane, such as from a 737 to a 757.
Many People to Help You Succeed
In the Hopewell City Schools, new teachers are given a full complement of activities and skilled people to help them become proficient and effective.
Every new teacher in Hopewell has access to the following complement of people:
Buddy: This is an assigned teacher to serve as a buddy to whom the novice teacher can turn for immediate, simple help, such as answers to school procedural questions or quick advice. Hopewell correctly designates this teacher a buddy and not a mentor.
The Buddy’s Responsibility
Coach: This is a teacher with expertise in classroom management and instructional skills. There are presently at least four in each school and their role is to coach, as their title implies, for skill in classroom management and instruction.
The Coach’s Responsibility
Lead teacher: This is a teacher who can help with subject matter questions. There are five on each campus, each specializing in one of five areas—English, math, science, social studies, and technology. The lead teachers coach for desired results.
The Lead Teacher’s Responsibility
All of the coaches and lead teachers receive training, teach in the same building, and receive release time to observe and assist. Coaches and lead teachers are financially compensated for attending conferences. They then do follow-up training on what they have learned.
Administrative Support and Monitoring: In addition, the new teachers receive assistance from staff developers and administrators from both the central office and the building site.
The Principal’s Responsibility
The principals realize the clinical supervision model for all teachers is an excellent tool to teach, not to rate. Thus, the new teachers are taught to analyze and reflect on their own lessons.
The Central Office Staff’s Responsibility
The assistant superintendent, Linda Hyslop, structures and coordinates the new teacher induction process and keeps a vision for the program.
Many Activities to Help You Succeed
In addition to having access to competent people, Hopewell provides a varied set of activities, such as these:
All of this support is given to a new teacher upon joining the Hopewell schools. Can you understand why all the schools in Hopewell are 100 percent accredited?
The Original Question
Let’s return to the question posed at the start of this column, in which school district would you like to work—District 1 or District 2?
If you picked District 1 (a district offering no help or just a mentor) because you believe you can succeed on your own, then consider the data on new teacher attrition.
Studies done by Richard Ingersoll at the University of Pennsylvania reveal the following:
Since the one component is most typically a mentor, it will barely help in reducing new teacher attrition, from 41 percent to 39 percent.
If you choose District 2 (the Hopewell City Schools) your chance of dropping out of teaching drops to 18 percent. That is, four out of five teachers will still be teaching. Hopewell does not attract and keep new teachers with money. They train new teachers to succeed. Teachers who succeed do not leave a school district or the profession.
Districts that want you to succeed have an induction program designed to help you succeed. Before you agree to work for a district, ask some key questions. These can be found in a previous column, “Applying for a Job in a Tight Market, Part 1.” Click here.
Coaching Has Replaced Mentoring
The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (www.ascd.org) in its Education Topics defines “mentoring” based on a book by McBrien and Brandt, The Language of Learning.
Mike Schmoker, author of the best-selling book, Results: The Key to Continuous School Improvement, (an ASCD publication) says of mentoring,
Ted Britton,Senior Researcher for WestEd (www.WestEd.org), a nonprofit research, development, and service agency, reports this about mentors:
Today the best districts coach, not mentor, their new teachers and place them in learning teams to develop their teachers to state specified proficiencies.
Hopewell provides coaches and lead teachers who coach new teachers for proficiency and effectiveness. Mentors have no compelling charge to produce proficient and effective teachers. What other districts would normally label as mentors, Hopewell correctly calls them “buddies.”
Mentors are important in providing emotional support and answering basic questions for survival. That is their role, whereas coaches have responsibilities.
Coaches Have Responsibilities
The major responsibility of a coach is to help maximize personal and professional potential, while concomitantly upgrading their own professional proficiency. Mentors are under no obligation to upgrade their role as a mentor. Hopewell financially compensates their coaches and lead teachers for attending conferences and upgrading their own proficiencies.
Coaching is customized and focused on providing instruction on what needs to be accomplished. Coaches tailor support, assess each teacher’s progress with observations, use interviews and surveys, and have follow-up visits. Teachers feel more motivated and responsible to act on new skills learned because coaching is personalized, customized, and ongoing.
Just as a tennis coach, a fitness coach, or an executive coach has a responsibility, educational coaches have similar responsibilities of producing proficiency too. Schools often have coaches for literacy, math, science, and technology. Coaches have a ‘big-picture plan’ for student achievement. To accomplish this they suggest or show teachers what to do and assess for progress.
Tom Guskey, an expert in evaluation design, analysis, and educational reform, found that coaches focus on student learning goals, identify small measurable steps to tailor goal accomplishment, and plan professional development that differentiates for each teacher based on their needs. The emphasis is on student learning and coaches coach for learning.
To read more about the responsibility of improving student learning, click here to read “Improving Student Achievement Is Simple, Part 1” and click here to read “Part 2” of the same article.
In many districts, the mentors have taken on some coaching responsibility for teacher proficiency. Proficiency is essential if there is to be a concomitant improvement in student learning because the research is very specific. It is the teacher.
In these districts, where the mentors are working to improve instruction skills for improved student learning, by definition, mentors should be called “coaches.”
What Works with New Teachers
Retaining teachers is not the same as helping teachers become proficient and effective.
No two induction programs are identical. Just as every business trains their own employees to their own set of goals, successful school districts each have their own unique induction programs.
Here are links to school districts and the structure of their induction programs. Click on each name to be directed to an overview of each district’s induction program.
Penn Hills Schools, Pennsylvania
Clark County Schools, Nevada
Flowing Wells Schools, Arizona
Islip Public Schools, New York
Kern County Schools, California
Lafourche Parish Schools, Louisiana
What’s Your Game Plan?
If you are a pre-service teacher looking to be hired this fall, you know the support you’re looking for in a school district. Coaches!
If you are an administrator dealing with low test scores and fleeing teachers, you know the kind of support you need to establish in your school district. Coaches!
If you are a teacher in a non-supportive school district and want to move, you know what to look for in a caring school district. Coaches!
Answering the question “In which district would you like to work?” is a no brainer. Districts that support and grow you will always score big both in student achievement and teacher satisfaction. That’s the victory the school boards, administrators, parents, teacher, and children what to achieve. It can be done as a community of professionals working and planning together.
We’ve shared with you the structure for success through the years. It’s time for you to execute a winning game plan.
For a printable version of this article click here.
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