My sister is a new teacher in a California
school district and she has an excellent induction
program. She refers to her school as a
real learning community that supports the
professional growth of all teachers, new and
New teachers in my school district receive
no formal support at all. They're left to sink or
swim in the isolation of their own classrooms.
My state also doesn't provide any funding for
mentoring new teachers. How do we go about
getting better new teacher support in our state
and school district to ensure that our newest
educators stay in the profession? -- Anne
Your sister is very lucky. In most schools, new teachers
are assigned a mentor, but few receive intensive, high-quality
induction support. That's why so many beginning
teachers leave the most challenging assignments
and even the profession entirely during their first few
years on the job.
Old-fashioned "buddy systems" are still the norm in
American schools. Though they may provide some psychological
and logistical support to new teachers, they
don't keep new teachers in the classroom or help them
to develop their skills as educators. Comprehensive
induction programs systemize assistance, utilize carefully
selected and trained mentors, provide time for
interaction between mentors and new teachers, and
develop the professional capacity of new teachers.
State policy plays a critical role in the growth and
sustainability of induction programs. More than
thirty states require new teacher mentors, and about
eighteen provide some amount of state funding, ranging
from a few hundred dollars to several thousand
dollars per new teacher. But mandates and funding
aren't enough. States also must address induction
quality by developing program standards and building
the capacity of mentors and local program administrators
through training and ongoing professional
An initial step you can take is to help state policy
makers understand the connection between teaching
quality and student learning. In education, nothing is
more important than an effective teacher.
step is to articulate how high-quality induction programs
strengthen the effectiveness of beginning teachers,
propel student learning, and provide a positive
return on investment. Reaching out to local congressional
staff is also worthwhile to generate knowledge
and interest at the federal level. I encourage you to
learn from the New Teacher Center's policy documents
that make the case for public investments in induction
Robust state support cannot guarantee that every
new teacher will be served by a high-quality induction
program and receive a skilled mentor. Quality varies
even in a state like California, which has built a strong
state infrastructure around induction and provides
$4,069 per new teacher.
States also need to work
closely with superintendents, principals, school
boards, and teachers' associations to gain their buy-in
and involvement. These are key partners in developing
and strengthening local induction-program quality
and sustaining these programs through leadership
changes and during difficult budget times.
Even in the absence of state policy and funding,
individual school districts can take various steps. For
example, a district can tap into federal Title II dollars
to fund induction. Mentors work with new teachers to
help them develop their literacy skills as well as effective
pedagogy in working with English-language
learners. A district can start by piloting high-intensity
induction in a subset of schools -- for example, those
with the largest numbers of teachers.
Finally, I would
encourage district leaders to seek support from the
regional educational service centers, and determine
whether neighboring districts operating induction programs
would be interested in a partnership, or at least
sharing lessons learned.
I really appreciate your interest. We want to recruit
talented new teachers and give them the support they
need to become excellent.
Ellen Moir is a veteran bilingual teacher who is focused on the challenges faced by new teachers as well as on the needs of those with long careers in education. She is also the executive director of the New Teacher Center, at the University of California at Santa Cruz, a resource for educator-induction research, policy, and practice.