Is your district’s teacher induction program working for your school? Don’t count on it!

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As many as 30% of first and second-year teachers report that they were not formally assigned a mentor even when practicing in states that had such a mandate.  Likewise, many teachers that were assigned a mentor never planned instruction with them, were never observed by them, and never received support analyzing student work (New Teacher Center, 2013).  Does 10 to 30 percent of your school’s new-teacher classrooms look like this?  What impact does this have on student achievement at your school?  More broadly, if your district provides a teacher induction/mentoring program do you know if it is improving outcomes for students at your school?  Don’t count on it.

High rates of teacher turnover and insufficient teacher training present challenges for principals.  In some schools, new-teacher attrition rates may approach 50%.  As such, a profession that faces such losses requires an intervention to reduce the number of employees exiting the field (Taranto, 2011).  Not all teacher attrition is negative: The early departure of a low-performing teacher can be advantageous for the teacher, the students, and the school.  Nonetheless, high levels of teacher attrition among new teachers is not cost-free (Ingersoll & Strong, 2011).  Likewise, Linda Darling-Hammond (2000) contends that high teacher turnover in urban school districts hurts academic achievement by exposing students to inexperienced teachers.  Ineffective teachers and teacher turnover have both financial and opportunity costs for schools.  Consequently, many districts offer some type of new teacher induction or mentoring programs; however, the programs are often too modest and provide an inadequate portfolio of services for new teachers or teachers needing developmental assistance.  One reason that districts may not provide more training to new teachers can be that comprehensive induction programs are expensive: Costs for induction programs have been shown to range from $1,660 to $6,605 per teacher per year (Glazeman, Isenberg, Dolfin, Bleeker, Johnson, Grider, & Jacobus, 2010).

One option to address the problems of high teacher turnover, low teacher job satisfaction, and low student achievement is to implement a more comprehensive and innovative site-based teacher-induction program.  This support must be thorough, well-thought-out, and delivered through knowledgeable, skilled, and trained mentors.  The goal is to ensure that every beginning teacher is provided with multi-year supports that grow them into effective teachers and maximizes their impact on student achievement.  If your state is like Colorado, your district’s induction program is likely to be neither innovative nor effective.  Consequently, principals must put into place their own framework for providing high-quality mentoring, coaching, and support systems.  What this looks like will be different school-to-school; however, it is essential that your program have direct oversight from someone on your leadership team that is accountable for the program’s success and outcomes.

Most teacher induction studies reviewed by Ingersoll and Strong (2011) demonstrated that new teachers who took part in some kind of induction program performed better at several facets of teaching such as keeping students on task, creating effective lesson plans, using effective student questioning practices, modifying classroom activities to meet students’ interests, sustaining a positive classroom atmosphere, and demonstrating positive classroom management.  Implementing more comprehensive induction programs may emphasize to varying degrees components such as new teacher orientations, formative assessment, professional development, mentoring and peer coaching, professional learning communities, and classroom observations.  Ostensibly, the more focus on a particular component, the higher the impact it will have on teacher effectiveness and student achievement.  However, intensity does not guarantee quality, persistence, and regularity of training (Glazeman, et al., 2010).

An essential characteristic of the comprehensive induction program would be to implement a package that encompasses the entire school.  A comprehensive induction program must be more than merely allocating a mentor: it must be comprehensive and centered around growth and participating in a professional learning community.  Furthermore, participation in a professional learning community provides the opportunity to collectively inquire and make sense of their experiences (DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2008).  A professional learning community brings teachers old and new together and out of their classroom silos.

A comprehensive induction program should include carefully chosen mentors that are rigorously trained: There should be an induction curriculum that consists of intensive and well-thought-out support for new educators that includes activities such as an orientation, professional development opportunities, and frequent meetings with mentors that focus on instruction and as well as opportunities for novice teachers to observe more experienced teachers.  Furthermore, there must be formative assessment tools that facilitate evaluation, reflection, and growth in the new teacher’s practice.  Likewise, principals must communicate and model their universal support for the induction program by providing release time for program activities.  Studies have shown that non-supportive principals sometimes required new teachers to attend school activities that conflicted with induction program events or imposed burdensome constraints on when mentors could visit with their mentees (Glazeman, et al., 2010).

The New Teacher Center (2012) states that the components essential for program success are:
• Capable Instructional Mentors
• Effective Principals
• Multiple Support Structures for Beginning Teachers (MTSS for teachers– emphasis mine)
• Strong Program Leaders
• Ongoing Program Evaluation

It is also essential that you have someone with significant influence facilitating this program at the site level.  This person must be able to provide the administrative supports that are essential across functional areas: this would include, but not be limited to, scheduling professional development meetings on the master calendar, scheduling release time, and approving offices and rooms for meeting locations (Glazeman, et al., 2010).

Glazerman et al. (2010) contend that the mentoring process should be supported by training, the use of tools and processes to facilitate effective mentoring, and modeling activities such as helping teachers with their first day of school or helping them set up their classrooms.  Mentors should also facilitate activities that call for new teachers to investigate their school, their community, and to create profiles of their classes and students.  Mentors must also facilitate formative assessments for the new teacher that gathers and analyzes an assortment of data that is focused on improving teacher practices and student learning.  In using a formative assessment, new teachers identify an area of their practice as a focus, develop a plan to achieve their goal, and then frequently assess their progress.  Furthermore, the authors’ study found that it took at least two years of teachers participating in a comprehensive induction program for any improvements to show up in students’ test scores.

An online component could be part of a comprehensive induction program.  This component would facilitate access to experienced educators that reside outside of the school or district: one such example would be school-university partnerships that provide creative resource sharing.  Web 2.0 technologies have a dual benefit as a component of comprehensive induction programs: the framework models the use of technology in instruction for the inductees.  Likewise, this will assist with the extensive gap between teachers and their technologically savvy students.  These technologies include, but are not limited to wiki’s, embedded videos, hyperlinks, netcasts, Google Docs, downloadable files, and asynchronous discussions (Taranto, 2011).

With districts trying to implement more comprehensive induction programs, it is sensible to explore the potential of expanding online learning community tools for induction programs.  The online format provides an on-demand component for professional development, idea sharing, instructional materials, and guidance.  For example, LinkedIn has group discussions for content areas and Twitter has hashtags for particular subject chats.  These enable teachers and school leaders to expand their professional leaning networks (PLN), personal learning environments (PLE), and online-learning community (OLC) beyond their school, district or state.

Student success is not something to leave to chance.  School leaders must be intentional and purposeful in setting up tools and activities that support and develop new teachers.  This begins with having an individual that is accountable for implementation, measuring/monitoring, sustaining, and producing desired outcomes.  What small step can you take tomorrow, and each day thereafter, to improve your new teacher induction program?

Best practices,

Shon Allbritten

References

Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). The flat world and education; how America’s commitment to equity will determine our future. New York: Teachers College Press.

DuFour, R., DuFour, R., & Eaker, R. (2008). Revisiting professional learning communities at work: new insights for improving schools. Bloomington: Solution Tree Press.

Glazeman, S., Isenberg, E., Dolfin, S., Bleeker, M., Johnson, A., Grider, M., & Jacobus, M. (2010). Impacts of Comprehensive Teacher Induction. Institute of Education Science, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. U.S. Department of Education.

Ingersoll, R. M., & Strong, M. (2011, June). The impact of induction and mentoring programs for beginning teachers: a critical review of the research. Review of Educational Research, 81(2), 201-233. doi:10.3102/0034654311403323

New Teacher Center. (2012). The Big Picture: Comprehensive Systems of Teacher Induction. Retrieved July 30, 2015, from Teacher Induction Programs: http://www.newteachercenter.org/induction-programs

New Teacher Center. (2013). Increasing the effectiveness of educator induction programs in Colorado.

Taranto, G. (2011). New-Teacher Induction 2.0. Journal of digital learning in teacher education, 28(1), 4-15.