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Supporting new teachers is a critical strategy for improving teacher retention and increasing the professionalism of the teaching force. Quality mentoring and induction programs provide new teachers with consistent feedback and support from a trained mentor. These programs also integrate new teachers into the professional culture of the school. When implemented effectively, they can help to attract, support, and retain highly effective educators. Individual case study pages offer examples of these principles in practice.
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Research reveals that approximately one in three teachers leaves the classroom during their first three years of service. While this is not notably different from other professions, the attrition rate increases to 46 percent in the first five years and is a third higher in urban areas. These high rates of attrition are due in part to the fact that many teachers, disproportionately found in the neediest schools, participate in short-lived sink or swim induction processes with limited and inadequate professional support. Though many states have initiated new teacher induction programs, the features of these programs vary considerably and only a select few have state-financed, multi-year support.
Research from The New Teacher Center has found that providing high quality mentoring programs for new teachers can lead to the following benefits:
- Reduced turnover. A synthesis of the research demonstrates that mentoring is correlated with new teacher retention and can lead to decreased teacher turnover.
- Improved practice. Some initial findings reveal that high quality mentoring can increase new teacher effectiveness and in turn, student achievement.
- Fostering teacher leadership. Mentoring also contributes to the ongoing professional development of experienced teachers by allowing veterans to assume additional leadership and accelerate their own professional growth.
Use this New Teacher Center resource to make the case for a comprehensive induction program in your district.
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Although approaches vary, support for mentoring and new teacher induction is becoming widespread. The following recommendations are based on studies conducted on existing mentoring programs. It is important to note that implementing many of these recommendations successfully requires leadership at the state, district, and school level. For additional resources, see the websites and tools section.
- Develop standards for new teacher performance and provide data-driven support. Beginning teacher support should be driven by clear standards of performance and student learning. Mentors and other support staff should offer new teachers more than just emotional assistance by grounding feedback in evidence of practice and using data on student learning to guide their conversations. This structure of educative mentoring will help develop reflective practitioners and as such, accelerate new teacher professional growth.
- Provide adequate time for mentor-new teacher interaction. Mentors need sufficient time on a weekly basis to work with new teachers to help them develop their instructional practice. A full-time release model may not be feasible in some districts given financial restraints, but regardless of the structure, school leaders need to protect time for mentors to interact with new teachers on a frequent basis.
- Train highly qualified mentors. Mentors should be selected through a rigorous process that requires them to demonstrate evidence of excellence in teaching, as well as strong interpersonal skills. However, selecting high-quality mentors is not sufficient. Just like new teachers, mentors must also be provided with ongoing training and support from expert peers to help them increase their effectiveness.
- Integrate new teachers into the school culture. Strong induction programs should include more than just high-quality mentors. New teachers are more likely to stay in classrooms if they work in supportive school environments characterized by a professional culture focused on teaching and learning. Induction programs should develop new teachers' instructional expertise and ensure that they are welcomed into the broader school environment. All stakeholders in the school and external community should be involved in this process.
- Guarantee sustainable funding. Studies have shown that strong new teacher induction can reduce attrition and save money in the long run; however, funding for these programs can be an initial hurdle. Districts can use Title II money or foundation support to fund induction programs, but state policy makers should ensure that adequate funds are available to sustain them. For more information on how to allocate district spending, see the Strategic Review page.
To see how these recommendations have been implemented by districts and states, refer to the case study pages.
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- Do Teacher Induction and Mentoring Matter?
(Richard Ingersoll and Thomas M. Smith, University of Pennsylvania, 2004)
Using data from the School and Staffing Survey, the authors identified and tracked seven components of induction programs: a mentor, common planning time, new teacher seminars, communication with administration, a support network, reduced teaching load, and a teacher's aide. They found that teacher turnover decreased as the number of induction components teachers reported receiving increased; however, there is no data examining which components were most critical in increasing retention.
- Induction Into Learning Communities
(Kathleen Fulton, Irene Yoon, and Christine Lee, National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, August 2005)
The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF)'s Induction Paper reviews induction programs in the U.S. and abroad and discusses how these programs have evolved over time. The authors conclude that effective induction must incorporate new teachers into a professional learning community that develops a shared vision for improved student learning and nurtures ongoing professional growth. They offer several recommendations for state, district, school, and higher education leaders. For example, they suggest that (1) state leaders should ensure sustainable funding and create standards for new teachers, (2) district leaders should carefully place new teachers and adopt standards for evaluating induction programs, and (3) school leaders should create environments conducive to new teacher learning and provide ongoing training for mentors.
- Mentoring and Supporting New Teachers
(Bridget Curran and Liam Goldrick, National Governors Association for Best Practices, January 9, 2002)
This NGA Center for Best Practices Issue Brief assesses the state of current induction programs and offers policy makers recommendations for collecting and using data, providing adequate and consistent funding, and building program evaluation into state policy. The authors identify the following key program features - (1) promoting universal participation for new teachers, (2) using experienced teachers as mentors, (3) earmarking funding, (4) providing clear standards, and (5) having a subject-specific focus. Mentoring and release time are considered two of the most critical components of induction programs.
- Teacher Induction in Illinois and Ohio
(Daniel C. Humphrey, et al., SRI International, February 2008)
This study provides state policy makers with the following recommendations when developing induction programs for new teachers: (1) invest in high-quality induction and attend to the school environment, (2) integrate preparation and induction supports for alternative certification teachers, (3) frontload support for late hires, conduct formative assessments of beginning teachers and tailor assistance to meet their needs, (4) support teachers in addressing the needs of special populations, (5) set minimum expectations for mentor support, and (6) provide adequate time for mentors and mentees to engage in useful activities. Equally important, the study concludes that teacher induction is the responsibility of the whole school community.
- The Impact of New Teacher Induction on Teacher Practices and Student Learning
(Marnie Thompson, et al., paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, April 13, 2005)
Teachers taking part in California's new teacher induction program (BTSA) have been found to be more equipped at instructional planning and analyzing their practice, more likely to ask students higher-order questions, and better at providing substantive specific feedback to students. The students of teachers who engaged with BTSA at a high level outscored the students of low engagement teachers by an average of .25 standard deviations across six standardized tests, and the mean retention rate of BTSA participants five years after completing the program is 84%.
- Using Policy to Improve Teacher Induction: Critical Elements and Missing Pieces
(Cynthia L. Carver and Sharon Feiman-Nemser, Educational Policy 23, no. 2, 2009, 295-328)
In this analysis, the authors examine three notable induction programs - California's BTSA program, Connecticut's BEST program, and Cincinnati's PAEP program. They determine that how the problem of induction is defined shapes the nature and duration of support offered and the programmatic tools and resources provided. Additionally, they conclude that to support the kind of teaching demanded by today's reforms, beginning teachers will need mentors who are skilled in helping them learn through and from practice. Consequently, induction policy will need to focus attention equally on new teachers and their mentors.
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The following tools contain additional ideas and information about mentoring and induction programs. These websites include resources for developing induction and mentoring programs and ready-to-use materials.
Resources for developing induction and mentoring programs
- The New Teacher Center (NTC), a national resource for practice, research, and policy on induction, has developed a mentoring model that helps new teachers maintain a strategic focus on student learning and classroom instruction. Districts in 40 states and 4 countries incorporate NTC professional development and/or materials in their induction programs. See the The New Teacher Center case study page for more information.
- The Education Commission of the States has written a series of briefs on induction programs and mentoring for new and beginning teachers. In addition to defining terms, they discuss the nature of state induction programs and mentoring policies.
- The National Education Association outlines many of the issues and questions that school districts, teacher associations, and universities should consider when developing new or improving existing mentor programs. These questions reflect the experiences and observations of teachers and mentors, district administrators, higher education faculty, and teacher association leaders who possess first-hand knowledge about what to seek and what to avoid when creating a mentor program.
- The Mentor Leadership and Resource Network is a grassroots effort that has grown into an international initiative. The site includes resources designed to increase the knowledge base and general awareness of best practices in the induction of new teachers.
- A variety of mentor resources including a self-assessment checklist for potential mentors, sample mentee surveys, a new teacher support checklist, and a school culture survey are provided by The PREP Center.
- Downloadable protocols and other materials that mentors can use when facilitating new teacher professional development and professional learning communities have been created by the National School Reform Faculty
- Resources such as lesson plans, online courses and web mentoring support for new teachers are accessible on the Teachers Network website.
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- Comprehensive Mentoring Programs for New Teachers: Models of Induction and Support, 2nd ed.
(Susan Villani, Corwin Press, 2009)
This updated edition of Mentoring Programs for New Teachers outlines mentors' roles, mentor preparation, and the ways comprehensive mentoring programs support new teachers and educators. It includes descriptions of 18 successful real-world, comprehensive mentoring programs, a list of five factors to consider when developing comprehensive mentoring programs, and resources to use in program development.
- Effective Teacher Induction and Mentoring: Assessing the Evidence
(Michael Strong, Teachers College Press, 2008)
In this book, Michael Strong provides a comprehensive, up-to-date review of all recent research on the effectiveness of mentoring and induction support for new teachers. Not only does he bring together the research in one volume, but he also offers insight from his own experience, outlines key considerations for implementing an effective induction/mentoring program, and discusses how to design studies to determine program effectiveness.
- Leading the Teacher Induction and Mentoring Program, 2nd ed.
(Barry W. Sweeny, Corwin Press, 2008)
While resources are abundant for helping the mentor and the new teacher, very little has been written to guide the leaders of teacher and mentor development. In Leading the Teacher Induction and Mentoring Program, Second Edition, Barry W. Sweeny provides an effective, proven model for developing, implementing, evaluating, and sustaining an induction and mentoring program that results in highly qualified teachers. The author offers strategies that allow leaders to support mentors and novice teachers and to promote school improvement and professional development initiatives. It presents step-by step instructions, includes sample templates and resources, and offers recommendations for avoiding potential pitfalls.
- Mentoring New Teachers, 3rd ed.
(Hal Portner, Corwin Press, 2008)
In the latest edition of the best-selling Mentoring New Teachers, Hal Portner draws upon research, experience, and insights to provide a comprehensive overview of essential mentoring behaviors and a step-by-step handbook for school leaders, mentors, and staff developers. He examines four critical mentoring functions - establishing good rapport, assessing mentee progress, coaching continuous improvement, and guiding mentees toward self-reliance - and includes valuable tools, resources, and activities, including: teacher mentor standards based on NBPTS Core Propositions, classroom observation instruments, and tools for assessing preferred learning styles.