Ask Ellen: Induction Policy Drives Program Quality
Credit: Bart Nagel
How do we get better new-teacher support to keep our newest educators in the profession?
My sister is a new teacher in a Californiaschool district and she has an excellent inductionprogram. She refers to her school as areal learning community that supports theprofessional growth of all teachers, new andveteran alike.
New teachers in my school district receiveno formal support at all. They're left to sink orswim in the isolation of their own classrooms.My state also doesn't provide any funding formentoring new teachers. How do we go aboutgetting better new teacher support in our stateand school district to ensure that our newesteducators stay in the profession? -- Anne
Your sister is very lucky. In most schools, new teachersare assigned a mentor, but few receive intensive, high-qualityinduction support. That's why so many beginningteachers leave the most challenging assignmentsand even the profession entirely during their first fewyears on the job.
Old-fashioned "buddy systems" are still the norm inAmerican schools. Though they may provide some psychologicaland logistical support to new teachers, theydon't keep new teachers in the classroom or help themto develop their skills as educators. Comprehensiveinduction programs systemize assistance, utilize carefullyselected and trained mentors, provide time forinteraction between mentors and new teachers, anddevelop the professional capacity of new teachers.
State policy plays a critical role in the growth andsustainability of induction programs. More thanthirty states require new teacher mentors, and abouteighteen provide some amount of state funding, rangingfrom a few hundred dollars to several thousanddollars per new teacher. But mandates and fundingaren't enough. States also must address inductionquality by developing program standards and buildingthe capacity of mentors and local program administratorsthrough training and ongoing professionaldevelopment.
An initial step you can take is to help state policymakers understand the connection between teachingquality and student learning. In education, nothing ismore important than an effective teacher.
A secondstep is to articulate how high-quality induction programsstrengthen the effectiveness of beginning teachers,propel student learning, and provide a positivereturn on investment. Reaching out to local congressionalstaff is also worthwhile to generate knowledgeand interest at the federal level. I encourage you tolearn from the New Teacher Center's policy documentsthat make the case for public investments in inductionprograms.
Robust state support cannot guarantee that everynew teacher will be served by a high-quality inductionprogram and receive a skilled mentor. Quality varieseven in a state like California, which has built a strongstate infrastructure around induction and provides$4,069 per new teacher.
States also need to workclosely with superintendents, principals, schoolboards, and teachers' associations to gain their buy-inand involvement. These are key partners in developingand strengthening local induction-program qualityand sustaining these programs through leadershipchanges and during difficult budget times.
Even in the absence of state policy and funding,individual school districts can take various steps. Forexample, a district can tap into federal Title II dollarsto fund induction. Mentors work with new teachers tohelp them develop their literacy skills as well as effectivepedagogy in working with English-languagelearners. A district can start by piloting high-intensityinduction in a subset of schools -- for example, thosewith the largest numbers of teachers.
Finally, I wouldencourage district leaders to seek support from theregional educational service centers, and determinewhether neighboring districts operating induction programswould be interested in a partnership, or at leastsharing lessons learned.
I really appreciate your interest. We want to recruittalented new teachers and give them the support theyneed 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.
Bewitched? Bothered? Bewildered? Ellen Moir is here to help. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and please include your name, affiliation,and contact information.