Written by: Amy Auletto
Primary Source: Green & Write, March 1, 2017
The teacher workforce has become less experienced over the years. Twenty years ago, the typical teacher had 15 years of experience. As of 2011-12, the modal level of experience was just one year. Beginning teachers are far more likely to leave the profession than their more senior colleagues. Teachers with 1-3 years of experience are more than twice as likely to quit as those who have been teaching for 10 or more years. As discussed in a previous Green & Write blog, teacher attrition disrupts student learning and costs districts up to $2.2 billion per year.
This phenomenon is especially concerning for students in high-need schools. Novice teachers are disproportionately concentrated in schools with high numbers of students of color and low-income students. Not only are these student populations exposed to the disruptive effects of turnover, but they are also being taught by less effective teachers. A teacher’s experience level is highly predictive of his or her students’ achievement gains.
Because our most vulnerable students are unduly exposed to less effective teaching and the harmful consequences of teacher turnover, we must find ways to support beginning teachers. Induction has been touted as one strategy to retain new teachers and help them improve their practice. Induction programs often include activities such as mentoring, orientations to the school, professional development, and classroom observations of colleagues. Induction, however, varies widely in quality and scope, with only 29 states requiring any support for new teachers.
While induction is often delivered at the school or district level, there has been a recent shift towards university-based programming, which has a number of potential benefits. When universities provide induction for new teachers, there is more emphasis placed on research-based practices; new teachers can be paired with mentors outside of their schools, avoiding the fear of being judged or assessed by their colleagues; and universities can build upon their existing student teaching partnerships with local school districts.
North Carolina’s New Teacher Support Program
A new study by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers Kevin C. Bastian and Julie T. Marks examined the impact of a university-based teacher induction program in North Carolina specifically designed to support new teachers in the state’s lowest-performing schools. In 2010, North Carolina was awarded federal grant money through Race to the Top, an initiative designed to encourage education reform. North Carolina chose to use $7.7 million of its nearly $400 million award to create the New Teacher Support Program (NTSP), an induction program aimed at supporting teachers in their first through third years in North Carolina’s most challenging schools. The NTSP is unique in that it was developed by university faculty and supports all new teachers in participating high-need schools, not just those who attended their teacher preparation programs. The NTSP offers a three-part program to new teachers that includes face-to-face and virtual instructional coaching, professional development sessions, and multi-day institutes.
Bastian and Marks investigated the impact of the NTSP on teacher performance and retention rates. While they did not find that the NTSP produced any changes in teacher performance, attrition was significantly lower among participants. Additionally, they found that more intensive programming led to even better outcomes for teachers and that instructional coaches have a positive impact on student learning in math and high school. Bastian and Marks suggested that it may be beneficial to create additional induction partnerships between districts and universities and that these partnerships may be especially beneficial for low-performing schools as they are often under-resourced and struggle to provide induction on their own.
University-based induction may also benefit teacher education programs. By having closer interactions with schools, these institutions will be able to refine their teacher training based on the strengths and weaknesses they observe among new teacher participating in induction. With the increasing focus on holding teacher education programs accountable for their graduates’ performance and retention, universities stand to gain quite a bit from investing in the outcomes of new teachers in struggling schools.
All students deserve access to effective educators. By encouraging teachers to remain in the profession, we can reduce the disruptive effects of teacher turnover and boost the overall experience level and quality of the teachers working with our most vulnerable students. As demonstrated by the NTSP, university-based induction may be a potentially powerful strategy to combat the greening of the teaching profession.
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