How To Get Started Improving Your Efforts To Support And Assess Novice Teachers
Many professions offer orientation and support experiences for professionals starting out in a field. Medical residents and law associates—even rookie baseball players—receive extended training, development, and mentoring (working alongside a seasoned expert) before taking on the responsibilities of a full professional. In contrast, novice teachers often are left to fend for themselves, with little or inadequate initiation into the profession.
However, an increasing number of school districts offer teacher induction programs to orient, support, assist, train, and assess teachers within their first three years of employment in public schools. Teacher induction is the process of socialization to the teaching profession, adjustment to the procedures and mores of a school site and school system, and development of effective instructional and classroom management skills. Participants in these programs are called inductees, a term which refers simultaneously to teachers who are new to the profession, and teachers with experience who are new to a district, grade level, or certification area.
Teacher induction programming can (and does) take many forms. Induction activities can range from a short orientation session, to mentoring programs, to staff development courses and workshops, to multiyear programs that continue to meet the changing needs of teachers as they develop. Many districts combine several activities to support new teachers.
Why are induction programs needed?
Influx of new hires
Due to escalating teacher retirements and rising student enrollments, the nation currently faces a shortage of qualified teachers. America will need to hire some two million K-12 teachers over the next decade. Although high-wealth suburban districts will always have a glut of applicants, low-wealth urban districts face a hiring demand of 900,000 teachers or more over the next decade.
High attrition rates
Just this year, America’s urban school districts will need new teachers to fill some of the nation’s most challenging classroom assignments. All too many of these new recruits face battlefield odds as to whether they will still be teaching five years from now. No matter how well they did in college, teacher preparation, or another career, teachers can be overwhelmed by their first years in the classroom. It has been estimated that 30% to 50% of beginning teachers leave in the first five years of teaching.
Central-city public schools are more likely to fill positions with “less than qualified” new teachers than are large or small towns. Even experienced teachers embarking on assignments in new cities or academic disciplines can be sorely tested, especially if they are unfamiliar with the urban environment. The so-called “reality shock” that can ensue often exacts a terrible toll on teacher morale, school district recruitment and, most important, student achievement.
Increasingly, inductees are learning on the job. Thus, there is an urgent need for induction programs to augment the knowledge and skills of both novice teachers emerging from traditional teacher preparation programs, as well as the increasing numbers of inductees with little or no training. Many of today’s induction programs are geared to remediating inductees’ inadequate professional preparation.
Why do new teachers leave the profession?
The initial years of teaching have been well documented as a time of frustration, overwhelming experiences, and increasing doubts about the choice of profession. The common concerns of new teachers vary widely, from handling discipline problems, learning the curriculum, understanding district policy and paperwork, to connecting theory with practice.
The problem of new teacher attrition is particularly pronounced in urban schools. A new study revealed a vicious cycle that was both symptom and cause of deteriorating conditions in low-performing urban schools. Inferior working conditions, lack of professional respect, low morale, and a culture of high faculty turnover all contribute to high rates of attrition among first- second- and third-year teachers in urban districts.
What are some common barriers to new teacher success?
There are many barriers to inductee success, some reflecting characteristics of the inductee, some pertaining to the school or community. Some of these barriers include:
– Inadequate preparation in classroom management
– Difficulty organizing time/work schedule
– Inadequate preparation in instructional methods
– Unfamiliarity with the curriculum
– Insufficient preparation for dealing with cultural diversity
– Difficulty fitting in with the school culture
– Language barriers
– Isolation in the classroom
– Large class size
– Cumbersome school or district bureaucracy
– Low salary/inadequate compensation
– Lack of respect or recognition as a teacher
What can teacher induction programs accomplish?
Effective induction programs hold promise to:
– Extend the preparation period of novice teachers through their crucial first few years on the job so they continue to develop as proficient, knowledgeable, and successful teachers
– Improve the climate for teaching and learning, and build community between new and veteran teachers
How widespread are induction programs in the U.S.?
The good news is that induction programs are prevalent across the nation, particularly in the nation’s larger towns and cities. However, these programs vary widely in their complexity, intensity, and quality.
Even though 58% of new public-school teachers are participating in some type of formal induction program during their first year of teaching (63% in urban schools), the scope and quality of support can range from effective, comprehensive, multiyear, developmental programs, to casual, one-shot, brief (and often inadequate) orientation sessions.
Unfortunately, even when district administrators have had the desire to strengthen induction programs in their schools, in many cases lack of financial resources has prevented resource-strapped school administrators from implementing their vision of induction. And, induction services are not reaching all who need them.
Are induction programs a new development?
Most induction programs in operation today were established prior to 1999. State mandates (often without state funding) typically spurred program creation. The 2000s were an especially fertile period for induction programs, due to heightened concern about rising teacher attrition and renewed interest in increasing teacher quality. Unfortunately, many programs have had to cut back services since then, due to lack of funding. The researchers found that one in three induction programs had reluctantly cut back services because of insufficient resources. However, the current shortage of qualified teachers is causing a resurgence of interest in supporting beginning teachers.
Are districts benefiting from their induction programs?
Sadly, there is a paucity of formal evaluation among both state-and district-level teacher induction programs. Outcome data that do exist, strongly suggest that good induction programs result in gains in teacher retention and teacher quality.
How does good teacher induction benefit children?
– It provides grounded, standards-based support for beginning teachers to continue to become better teachers.
– It keeps highly qualified and highly committed teachers in the profession.
– It provides opportunities for experienced teachers to become better teachers
Can induction programs benefit teacher recruitment?
Induction programs are beneficial as a recruitment tool. When prospective teachers ask whether they will have support and assistance during the first year of teaching, recruiters with bona fide induction programs can answer in the affirmative.
What does the future hold for induction programs?
As states and school districts begin to focus more intensively on issues of teacher quality, the challenges of new teacher orientation, adjustment, effectiveness, accountability, and attrition are coming more and more to the fore.
Increasingly, the federal government, states, and districts appear to be recognizing induction as a critical part of the infrastructure for professional development and are beginning to commit resources to formal programs addressing the needs of inductees. The following trends attest to genuine progress regarding teacher induction programs:
– Federal legislation is beginning to address teacher induction
– States are enacting policies to support beginning teachers
– Districts are starting to develop induction programs in response to rising teacher attrition (especially of good beginning teachers); the need to fill positions in shortage areas (e.g., mathematics, science, early childhood education); growing enrollments; and accelerating teacher retirements. The program will require a greater investment of funds, staff, inductee and mentor training opportunities, and school site support to provide meaningful and consistent assistance and training for all inductees.
– Districts are expanding existing induction programs
– Regional centers are being created to support teachers
– Teacher union interest in induction is growing. Despite the fact that teacher unions have been for the most part reluctant to treat novices differently from veteran teachers when it comes to contractual matters, some union affiliates (still a small number) have been instrumental in collaborating with school districts to develop induction programs.
Increasingly, states and districts are recognizing the relationship between supporting novice teachers and ensuring teacher retention in this time of critical teacher shortage. Still, well-funded, comprehensive, developmental induction programs that serve all teachers who need assistance are far from the norm in U.S. school districts. Future research will tell us more about the quality of induction programs, how to serve all eligible inductees, and how to integrate induction policies and practices into wider school reform efforts.
Guidelines for Success
Whether you are developing a new induction program, or are aim-ing to expand or improve an existing one, keep in mind that the most effective programs do the following:
– View induction as a multiyear, developmental process.
– Within the first three years of their teaching careers, inductees passing through developmental stages have different needs, typically beginning with basic survival (e.g., the nuts and bolts of classroom management and student discipline) and orientation to school site and system-level policies, procedures, and paperwork; moving on to real concern for instructional effectiveness; and followed by interest in curriculum reform, school reform, student assessment, and teacher leadership.
It is important to view induction as an extended, multiyear process. University courses are the start of teacher training—inductees need continuous learning opportunities, ongoing orientation, and sustained support. Thus, a second or a third year of support, assistance, and training may be needed, particularly when inductees are hired late or are assigned to grade levels or subject areas that are not their principal area of expertise.
Ensure that school site administrators understand how to orient inductees, create supportive working conditions for them, and effectively meet their professional needs. Principals should be trained to be knowledgeable about and alert to inductees’ needs and concerns and should convey to the entire staff the importance of welcoming, guiding, and assisting them. “Buddy” teachers in the same hall, grade level, or department can be asked to be available for emergencies arising in between scheduled mentor visits. Site administrators and department heads should also refrain from mis-assigning inductees to classes they are not qualified to teach or loading them up with extra duties.
While peers and buddy teachers often do a good job of providing support informally, designated mentor teachers play key roles in a formal induction program. Be sure you have paid careful attention to mentor selection, training, compensation, release time, support, and evaluation.
Link inductee evaluation to district- and state-level standards for what beginning teachers should know and be able to do. The most promising programs tie participation to new, more stringent professional standards and performance assessments that have been established as part of school reform legislation. Inductee performance assessments should be both formative and summative; and teachers should have access to support, information, and guidance prior to assessment.
Invest in technology to facilitate communication between and among inductees, their mentors, and university faculty. Email, online forums, bulletin boards, new teacher helplines, etc. are easy and relatively inexpensive ways for inductees to share ideas, concerns, and encouraging words with other novice teachers, regardless of geographic location. All teachers should have ready access to and training on the Internet, which offers a rich array of information resources to teachers and students alike.
Evaluate program effectiveness.
It is very important to set up a system of program evaluation or monitoring of progress. Begin by assessing specific program components/activities, such as orientation sessions and training work-shops for inductees—as well as training for mentors—to ensure that inductee, mentor, and district needs are met. Periodically ask inductees and site administrators for feedback on mentor availability and performance.
Go on to evaluate program outcomes in terms of teacher retention, improvement of teacher knowledge and skills, increase in new teacher confidence and satisfaction, mentor teacher professional development, etc. Be prepared to modify and improve program elements annually based on what each evaluation reveals. Learn from individual schools and site administrators who are particularly successful in implementing induction programs, and disseminate models of good practice districtwide.
Whether you are aiming to expand, improve, or change the ways you serve inductees in your district, it is important to strive for a coherent approach to induction, tailored to meet the needs of your beginning teachers. Be sure to incorporate the steps below when developing your induction program:
Put together a planning team.
You will need to bring together a planning team to tailor an induction program that best meets your district’s needs. An effective planning team is comprised of site administrators, teachers, individuals from local teacher preparation institutions, central office personnel, union representatives, and others in a position to determine how the program components should be coordinated and integrated.
Decide which teachers your program should serve.
While most induction programs require participation, exceptions often are made for newly hired—but experienced—teachers. Many districts routinely distinguish between inductees new to the profession and those transferring in with experience. Some state education agencies allow districts to provide limited assistance to inductees who are experienced teachers, especially if they are returning to the classroom after a prolonged absence or if they are new to the state or certification area.
Your program can serve first-year teachers only, or you might allow or require inductees to participate beyond their first year of teaching. Of course, like many districts, your resources may be tight and you may only be able to accommodate first-year teachers. If your state has a two-tiered (i.e., initial and full) licensure system, you might require participation of any inductee who is not fully licensed, and consider extending the program into subsequent years.
Ask these questions when considering whom to serve:
– Have you hired teachers after the start of the school year?
– Has a teacher requested support services?
– Do you have teachers who have changed grade levels or content areas or who have returned to teaching after a long absence?
– Do you have teachers on emergency permit or waiver?
– Do some of your teachers have probationary status?
– Do some of your teachers need help demonstrating competence or meeting requirements?
Jeff C. Palmer is a teacher, success coach, trainer, Certified Master of Web Copywriting and founder of https://Ebookschoice.com. Jeff is a prolific writer, Senior Research Associate and Infopreneur having written many eBooks, articles and special reports.