by Harry and Rosemary
Replace Each Teacher
Louisiana's Lafourche Parish Schools reports that of the 46 new teachers who have been through the first year of the parish's new teacher induction program, only 1 will be resigning. As of today, the attrition rate for the school year is 2.2 percent. This is phenomenal when you compare this rate of 2.2 percent to the prevailing national norms of anywhere between 9.3 to 17 percent for teachers who leave during their first year of teaching.
Fiction you say? Read on.
$50,000 to Replace Each Teacher
Every teacher who leaves the profession during the first three years likely costs taxpayers in excess of $50,000, says Leslie Huling and Virginia Resta of Southwest State Texas University. This is based on an industry standard of calculating 2.5 times the employee's initial salary in recruitment and personnel expenditures and lost productivity.
Let's pretend and reduce this cost to an unreal $25,000 per teacher instead of $50,000. The cost for recruiting and replacing, say, 50 teachers would be $1.25 million---a loss no school board would choose to accept. These costs are invisible, because the indirect costs in extra work for existing employees, reduced teacher effectiveness, and most important, the lost student productivity are incalculable.
In 2001, the Chicago Public Schools spent $5.7 million to hire 3,000 teachers. Officials did not mention any corresponding plan for increasing teacher retention, so will Chicago spend another $5.7 million the following year to recruit replacements for these teachers?
In 2001, New York City Schools chancellor Harold O. Levy recruited TBWA\Chiat\Day, a Madison Avenue agency, to create a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign to attract teachers for the school system. He had originally planned to spend $16 million on the campaign, but the seven-member board of education voted to spend only half that amount. That's still $8 million, just to hire teachers! And as reported in the New York Post on April 6, 2002, 22.5 percent, or 1,875, of the 8,334 new teachers hired in the fall of 2000 had left 14 months later---with more to eventually leave. Just imagine almost a quarter of your staff turning over each year.
$50,000 to Train All New Teachers
In one year, the attrition rate of the Lafourche Parish Public Schools dropped from 51 percent to 13 percent and, today, it hovers around 7 percent. That means that if the system had 500 teachers, then it cuts its rate of those leaving from 255 teachers in one year to 63 people leaving and finally to its present rate of 35 people leaving the school district. Attrition rate refers to the number of people who leave---for whatever the reason.
This district, in the scenic bayous south of New Orleans, had been losing 51 percent of their new teachers each year. In 1996, they installed a three-year new teacher induction program and the rate decreased to 13 percent in one year. Today, the district's teacher attrition hovers around 7 percent---a decrease of approximately 80 percent since the inception of the induction program.
The operating budget for the Lafourche Parish School's induction program is $50,000 a year. This covers the induction process for teachers for the first three years and includes expenses such as stipends, supplies, equipment, and of course refreshments! And there's always money left over.
Thus, if the loss of each new teacher costs the district $50,000, then if Lafourche retains only one new teacher a year, it recoups its entire investment.
However, they retain many more than one new teacher a year. (Are they making money?) Perry Rodrigue, Assistant Superintendent of the Lafourche Parish Schools, says,
Of those we asked, all of our new teachers returned the following year. This had never happened until we implemented an induction program.
Of the 279 teachers they have trained since 1996, only 11 have left teaching and bare in mind that some or many of these have left teaching for personal reasons (marriage, education, spouse's relocation), not because of being disgruntled with teaching. Thus, to have 96 percent (268 out of 279) still in teaching is a remarkable accomplishment for the Lafourche new teacher induction program. Of the 268 still teaching, 216 are still with the Lafourche Parish schools.
More importantly, over 99 percent of the new teachers who have participated in the district's induction program have successfully completed the performance-based Louisiana Teacher Assistance and Assessment Program, required for teacher certification in the state.
The Lafourche Parish induction program is so successful that Louisiana has adopted it as the statewide model for all school districts. Information on Louisiana FIRST is available at www.doe.state.la.us/DOE/
A New Teacher's Investment
If you are a potential new teacher, perhaps you no doubt have spent $50,000 or more preparing to become a teacher. It would be tragic if you left after a few years, losing your investment, but more disheartening, losing your dream of working with children.
You can succeed, and succeed well, if you find a district willing to train and help you succeed. Do not be so naïve to believe that you can succeed on your own. Even if you can succeed on your own, teaching is not an isolated activity; it is a social activity. The most successful schools have a culture where everyone works as a cooperative, learning community.
If you are a teacher applying for a job, it is essential that you ask the question at the interview: Does this district have a new teacher induction program?
Do not be misled if you are told that you will be given a mentor. Mentoring is not induction. Mentors may be part of a larger, organized induction process. Several major research studies have shown that giving a new teacher a mentor only will not work.
Mentoring: Mentoring is a one-to-one buddy system, and, at best, lasts for one year.
Induction: Induction is an organized, multi-year district program with a major goal of welcoming and training new teachers so that they become effective and part of the district's learning community.
To find out if the district has a true induction program, ask the following to help you identify a school or district that is interested in training, supporting, and retaining their new teachers.
- Is there an induction program for newly hired teachers?
- How many days does the program run?
- Who coordinates and teaches the program?
- What is the course outline?
- How many years has it been offered?
- Has the principal of the school been through the induction program?
- Am I evaluated by any of the people running the induction program?
- Will my colleagues nurture me as I become a more effective teacher?
- What is the attrition rate of the new teachers over the past 2 years?
- What will the school district do to help me if I am not being successful in the classroom?
Unlike most dedicated service professions, education fails to support its newly hired teachers from their very first day and through their entire first year. It's little wonder that the teachers don't succeed---and that their students don't succeed either. What happens? Administrators who do not know what to do, hire yet more unsupported teachers or just assign teachers a mentor. As a result, many promising new teachers leave the profession after only a few years. The classroom becomes a battlefield and the solution is to keep sending in fresh troops. The real military spends considerably more time training its troops than we do training our teachers.
Mary Miehl, an experienced teacher from Pennsylvania, says,
When I began teaching 33 years ago it was easy to find a job because the country was going through a time of teacher shortage. We had nothing as far as materials and texts were concerned, so we had to search for what to do and how to do it.
We were given a classroom full of children and told, "teach them."
Susan Moore Johnson, director of The Project on the Next Generation of Teachers at the Harvard Graduate School, writes in an article in the March 2002 issue of Educational Leadership:
The beginning was awful, Laura recalled, describing her first days of teaching. At the district's orientation meeting for all new teachers, she found nothing there to help her begin her work as a classroom teacher. Laura only learned which classes she would teach when she received the schedule at a faculty meeting the day before school started.
She hadn't begun with high expectations for professional support, but she was still surprised by the lack of organized induction.
It's sad, but nothing has changed in 33 years. The issue is still support. It is a tragic waste of human resources when dedicated new teachers, full of commitment and energy, leave the teaching profession dejected after only a few years. These new teachers leave with bitterness toward education, and they leave not because of poor pay, but because of a lack of support from administrators.
Induction: A Necessary Investment
If you are recruiting and you want your new teachers to become effective in the classroom, we know what works.
Exemplary school districts place their new teachers in an organized, sustained new teacher induction program.
Induction programs are a smart investment in the ongoing training, support, and retention of beginning teachers, who, as a result of the programs, become more qualified, capable, and effective teachers. Successful induction programs go a long way toward improving the quality of teaching and ensuring student success.
If you are recruiting, take heed that a new teacher induction program is a valuable recruiting perk. Katrina Robertson Reed, a former associate superintendent of the District of Columbia schools, views her city's induction program as part of its recruitment package. "That's one of the first things candidates ask, before they ask about signing bonuses: 'What kind of support am I going to get when I'm there?'" Reed says, "We have found over and over that that is really critical."
Susan Moore Johnson of The Project on the Next Generation of Teachers says,
The questions and uncertainty that new teachers bring to school require far more than an orientation meeting, a mentor in the building, and a written copy of the school's discipline policy.
What new teachers need is sustained, school-based professional development---guided by expert colleagues, responsive to their teaching, and continual throughout their early years in the classroom.
Principals and teacher leaders have the largest roles to play in fostering such experiences.
The key word is "sustained." Highly successful schools and school districts are successful because they TRAIN, SUPPORT, and RETAIN new teachers with a structured, sustained induction program for their new teachers.
The Induction Process
Although induction programs differ because they cater to the unique cultures and communities they serve, all have some commonalties. They all teach the following:
- Effective classroom management procedures and routines
- Effective instructional practices
- Sensitivity to and understanding of the school community
- Lifelong learning and professional growth
- Unity and teamwork among the entire learning community
What effective districts have in common is a new teacher induction program. The success of an induction program is measured by its retention rate. Simply put, effective successful teachers stay and concomitantly produce student achievement. It should be quite obvious that an unsuccessful teacher will leave and others will continue to leave on a revolving door basis without admitting they could not succeed. Thousands fall into this category every year and it's a shame.
So, if you are potential new teacher, how do you identify a district with an induction program? Ask! And make sure it is a structured, organized, and sustained induction program and not just a day of orientation or you're just given a mentor or buddy. An induction program is designed to train, support, and retain you. An induction program is a district's message to you that they care about you, that they value you, and that they want you to succeed and stay.
The following will help you recognize a true induction program.
What Is Induction?
It is a structured, comprehensive training program that must begin before the first day of school and continues for two or more years. Its purpose is to
- provide instruction in classroom and teacher effectiveness,
- reduce the intensity of transition into teaching, and
- increase the retention of greater numbers of highly qualified teachers.
The Components of Induction
An induction process must have three components:
- Training. Through a series of workshops, demonstration classrooms, visitations, and debriefing sessions, new teachers are taught and shown effective classroom strategies.
- Support. A cadre of mentors, administrators, and staff developers work personally and in regularly scheduled sessions to support and assist the new teacher.
- Retention. Provide a learning community where the contributions of all teachers are respected and shared. Effective administrators must retain effective teachers, creating a culture that values teaching and learning.
The Structure of an Effective Induction Program
- An initial four or five days of workshops and classes before school begins.
- A continuum of professional development through systematic training over a period of two or three years.
- A strong sense of administrative support.
- A mentoring component to the induction process.
- A structure for modeling effective teaching during in-services and mentoring.
- Opportunities for inductees to visit demonstration classrooms.
One of the finest new teacher induction programs can be seen in the Flowing Wells School District in Tucson, Arizona. The following is an excerpt from an article, "INDUCTION: The Best Form of Professional Development," from the March 2002 issue of Educational Leadership.
Flowing Wells School District
More than 6,000 students attend the Flowing Wells School District's six elementary schools, junior high school, and high school on the northwest side of Tucson, Arizona. Despite the community's lower-middle-income status, the district has produced 12 Arizona teachers of the year. Since the early 1980s, the five-year Flowing Wells induction program, directed by Susie Heintz, has taken teachers through five stages: novice, advanced beginner, competent teacher, proficient teacher, and expert.
The induction program kicks off with several days of activities for novice teachers before the beginning of the school year. Induction activities include
- Bus tour---The district superintendent acts as a tour guide on a chartered bus trip through the school district. A trivia contest introduces new teachers to the district's culture. For example, one question asks, How did the Flowing Wells School District get its name? (In 1881, the Allison brothers discovered water at the base of Sentinel Park.)
- Demonstration classrooms---Master teachers set up their rooms to model the first day of school in an effective classroom. Afterward, observers can discuss with the master teacher the strategies that the new teachers found useful.
- SPA (Special Professional Assistance) Day with a mentor---New teachers and their mentors observe each other teach. After observations, mentors and protégés have lunch together.
- Graduation luncheon---At the end of several days of new teacher induction activities, Flowing Wells honors new teachers with a graduation celebration in a beautifully decorated boardroom. Induction graduates sit with their principals and district administrators and enjoy a formal, candlelit luncheon. The superintendent presents framed certificates to the graduates.
Toby Gregory, who teaches at Flowing Wells High School, says that after induction he was so excited to be an English teacher that, "I went in [to the classroom], started with a few procedures, and then went right into teaching English, which is what I had been waiting to do."
The Flowing Wells Schools' Induction Program, which has been in use for the past 16 years, is so successful that educators from around the country come to the district to attend an annual workshop to learn how to implement such a program in their own districts. To find out more about this workshop, contact Susie Heintz at the Flowing Wells Schools, 1556 Prince Road, Tucson, AZ 85705.
Why Is Induction Essential?
This we know: It is the teacher and what the teacher knows and can do that is the determining factor in student achievement. Therefore, an induction program is essential because
- We must have a common goal that focuses on a system wide plan to guarantee that every child will have the optimum opportunity to learn and to be successful. So the school board, the central administrators, the teacher educators, the students who are preparing to be teachers, and classroom teachers must work together to develop programs and strategies that improve the quality of teaching.
- An induction program acculturates each new teacher who joins the district "family" so that the culture of the district is continuously nourished. Teachers stay with such a school district because they are part of a common culture where everyone is working toward the same goals.
- Induction brings order and vision to a process. Mentoring benefits the individual, whereas induction benefits the group by bringing people together. Induction is a group process, one that organizes the expertise of educators into a collaborative culture---for the sake of the students.
- The Consortium on Chicago School Research found that in schools where teachers worked as teams, students were taught math above their grade level. In schools where teachers worked alone, instruction lagged behind. In these schools eighth-grade math teachers typically taught fifth-grade math.
- Large sums of money spent on fancy brand-name programs produces lower results than less money spent on improving teacher quality which produces greater gains in student achievement.
How Cost Effective Is Induction?
At Leyden High School in Franklin Park, Illinois, the pre-school year induction training costs about $100 a day, and most of that is for food!
Leyden High School's induction program, titled "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Teaching … But Were Afraid to Ask," is for all teachers new to the two public high schools in this suburban Chicago district. It involves a weeklong training seminar in early August, with a heavy emphasis on classroom management. Their attrition rate is negligible, losing on the average one new teacher a year. They have been able to retain 86 of the 90 new teachers they hired in the past three years.
Kathryn Robbins, the superintendent, says
"Our induction program has proved to be one of our best investments.
Every district should absolutely be doing it."
Karyn Wright, the director of Preservice Development and New Teacher Induction for Clark County Schools in Nevada, where they hire 1,800 new teachers each year, concurs.
"Induction more than pays for itself."
Now Is the Time
The statistics and the evidence are overwhelming. If you want teachers to stay, invest in their training. If you want to use your investment wisely, develop an induction program. In the long run you are actually making money for every teacher that commits to staying with you.
Every moment you don't act on this plan, is a moment lost in the potential of a child. Teachers deliver to children the promise and the hope and the vision for a bright future. Let's not let another second go by without making that dream happen for teachers and kids.
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