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«Induction Programs That Keep New Teachers Teaching and Improving Harry K. Wong This article features schools and school districts with successful ...»

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Induction Programs That Keep New

Teachers Teaching and Improving

Harry K. Wong

This article features schools and school districts with successful induction

programs, all easily replicable. Increasingly, research confirms that teacher

and teaching quality are the most powerful predictors of student success. In

short, principals ensure higher student achievement by assuring better teaching. To do this, effective administrators have a new teacher induction program available for all newly hired teachers, which then seamlessly becomes part of the lifelong, sustained professional development program for the district or school. What keeps a good teacher are structured, sustained, intensive professional development programs that allow new teachers to observe others, to be observed by others, and to be part of networks or study groups where all teachers share together, grow together, and learn to respect each other’s work.

The teachers hired today are the teachers for the next generation.

Their success will determine the success of an entire generation of students. Their success can be ensured by providing them with a comprehensive, coherent professional development program.

The ultimate purpose of any school is the success and achievement of its students. Therefore, any efforts that are made must improve student achievement. Improving student achievement boils down to the teacher. What the teacher knows and can do in the classroom is the most important factor resulting in student achievement. Substantial evidence (Greenwald, Hedges, & Laine, 1996) shows that teacher qualification is tied to student achievement.

Studies that use value-added student achievement data have found that student achievement gains are much more influenced by a student’s assigned teacher than other factors like class size and class composition (DarlingHammond & Youngs, 2002). Effective teachers manage to produce better achievement regardless of which curriculum materials, pedagogical approach, or reading program is selected (Allington, 2003).

Hanushek, Kain, and Rivkin (2001) found that the magnitude of the teacher effect is striking. Based on research in Texas, the importance of having an effective teacher instead of an average teacher for 4 or 5 years in a row could essentially close the gap in math performance between students from Harry K. Wong is a former high school science teacher. He and his wife, Rosemary, are the authors of The First Days of School. He is the co-author of New Teacher Induction: How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers. Correspondence concerning this article may be sent to harrykrose@aol.com.

NASSP Bulletin s Vol. 88 No. 638 March 2004 low-income and high-income households. When he was at the University of Tennessee, William Sanders (1996) concluded that the children who had the most effective teachers 3 years in a row posted academic achievement gains that were 54% higher than the gains of children who had the least effective teachers 3 years in a row.

The Islip (NY) Public Schools (Wong, 2003a) implemented a 3-year induction program for new teachers in 1999. They experienced a concomitant improvement in student achievement, which they view as resulting from improved teacher performance. The difference in student achievement is shown in Figure 1.

This article is concerned with teacher induction; it is not about mentoring. A mentor is a component, albeit an important component, of an induction program (see Figure 2). Induction is a systemwide, coherent, comprehensive training and support process that continues for 2 or 3 years and then seamlessly becomes part of the lifelong professional development program of the district to keep new teachers teaching and improving toward increasing their effectiveness.

The Difference Between Induction and Mentoring There is much confusion and misuse of the words mentoring and induction.

The two terms are not synonymous, yet they are often used incorrectly. Induction is a process—a comprehensive, coherent, and sustained professional development process—that is organized by a school district to train, support, and retain new teachers and seamlessly progresses them into a lifelong learning program. Mentoring is an action. It is what mentors do. A mentor is a single person, whose basic function is to help a new teacher. Typically, the help is for survival, not for sustained professional learning that leads to becoming an effective teacher. Mentoring is not induction. A mentor is a component of the induction process (see Figure 3).

The issue is not mentoring; the issue is mentoring alone. Mentors are an important component, perhaps the most important component of an induction program, but they must be part of an induction process aligned to the district’s vision, mission, and structure. For a mentor to be effective, the mentor must be used in combination with the other components of the induction process. In fact, in many induction programs, many of the mentors are the trainers of the other components. However, for a mentor to be effective, he or she must be trained to the mission and goals of the district. For instance, Prince George’s County in Maryland provides 40 hours of training for each mentor. Forsyth County in Georgia provides 100 hours of training for their mentors.

In Hopewell, Virginia, each new teacher has access to a variety of support help. They each have a personal mentor to go to for immediate, simple help 42 NASSP Bulletin s Vol. 88 No. 638 March 2004 Figure 1. Teacher induction as a factor in student achievement.

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with procedural questions. An assigned mentor is especially important in helping to ease anxiety quickly and serve as a confidante when needed. The new teachers have access to four coaches in each school who have been trained and are compensated, each with expertise in classroom management and instructional skills. On each campus, there are also five lead teachers, also trained and compensated, with knowledge and skills in English, mathematics, science, social studies, and technology. In addition, the new teachers receive assistance from staff developers and administrators from both the central office and the building sites. Most important, there is an administrator who structures and coordinates the entire induction process.

With the plethora of alternative certification teachers, giving such a teacher a mentor alone to meet on occasion is not sufficient. Thus, the Educational Career Alternative Program (ECAP) in Fort Worth, Texas, which is responsible for 1,000 alternative certification teachers each year, provides intensive training with a comprehensive array of subjects, followed by classroom support during the internship year. Support is provided by field advisers (e.g., former principals, special education directors, superintendents, etc.) who observe classes frequently and can be contacted by e-mail or phone. Principals applaud the program and even comment that they wish their regular teachers could have the same training and support, as it has proven to be a good induction model.

The Dallas Public School’s New Teacher Initiative is a multifaceted program with a wide assortment of activities and people all integrated to help teachers, especially the alternative certification teachers. One facet of the initiative is the instructional facilitators who act as an emergency 911 squad of 12 well-trained teachers who will respond in less than 72 hours with a house call to the teacher who needs help. The facilitators work with the building administration, department chairperson, and other teachers to help the teacher in need.

The problem with many school districts is that their mentors are not part of a mentoring program, much less an induction program. The mentor is simply a veteran teacher assigned by a principal. The North Carolina Teaching Fellows Commission (1995) says, “Giving a teacher a mentor ‘only’

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is a convenient and unconsciously foolish way for an administrator to divorce himself or herself from the leadership required to bring a beginning teacher up to professional maturity level.” The Commission found that principals and new teachers rated mentoring the least effective way to help new teachers. One out of four new teachers claimed that they received either poor support or no support from their mentors. Simply assigning a mentor alone does little to remedy the situation of new teachers becoming discouraged and leaving the profession.

Feiman-Nemser (1996) found that after reviewing 20 years of claims about mentoring, few studies existed that showed the context, content, and consequences of mentoring. Serpell and Bozeman (1999) reported on beginning teacher induction and stated that the mentoring component is essential to many induction programs, but it is not helpful in and of itself. Schlager, Fusco, Koch, Crawford, and Phillips (2003) stated that new teachers’ needs are so varied and immediate that the appropriate combination of expertise, experience, and cultural background is unlikely to reside in one mentor who is available when needed. Lehman (2003) wrote that every district should offer a multiyear induction program that provides systematic help and support, and this cannot be done adequately by another teacher with a full-time load who drops by when time permits or when a problem arises.

Britton, Paine, Raizen, and Pimm (2003) reported that currently, in more than 30 states, the universal practice seems remarkably narrow. Mentoring predominates and often there is little more to assist beginning teachers. In many schools, one-on-one mentoring is the dominant or sole strategy for supporting new teachers, often lacking real structure and relying on the willingness of the veteran and new teacher to seek each other out. Britton et al.

further reported that many mentors are assigned to respond to a new teacher’s day-to-day crises and provide survival teaching tips. Mentors are simply a safety 44 NASSP Bulletin s Vol. 88 No. 638 March 2004 Figure 3. Difference between mentoring and induction.

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net for the new teachers. Mentoring, in and of itself, has no purpose, goal, or agenda for student achievement. Thus, mentoring alone fails to provide evidence of the connection between well-executed professional learning communities and student learning.

Journal articles typically do not mention the role of the principal, which is one key to why mentoring programs rarely succeed. The role of the principal is reduced to that of someone who assigns veteran teachers to new teachers, and then never oversees the process to see if the new teacher is successful and the resultant students are achieving. Saphier, Freedman, and Aschheim (2001) wrote, “for too many teachers, the mentoring pairing process results in a ‘blind date.’ The teachers do not know each other and neither partner has input into the pairing” (p. 36).

Despite the research indicating that mentoring alone has not been validated, states such as New York, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois, have mandated that by the 2003–2004 school year, all new teachers must have a mentor, nothing else, and states such as New Jersey still continue to mandate such an outdated methodology.

Susan Kardos stated, “we surveyed 110 new teachers in New Jersey. While 97% said they had a mentor, only 17% of the new teachers said that their mentors ever actually watched them teach in the classroom” (Drummond, 2002, Profession section, 3). Kardos (2003), with her colleague, Edward Liu (2003), expanded the survey to 486 teachers in four states—California, Florida, Massachusetts, and Michigan—and learned that 56% of new teachers report NASSP Bulletin s Vol. 88 No. 638 March 2004 that no extra assistance is available to them as new teachers and 43% of new teachers go through their entire first year of teaching without being observed by a mentor or a more experienced teacher.

In contrast to mentoring alone, Britton et al. (2003) reported on the induction programs of Switzerland, Japan, France, Shanghai (China), and New Zealand in a 4-year study. They found that, although the approach to the induction of new teachers in the five countries is diverse and disparate, they do have three major similarities that can provide staff developers responsible for

induction programs with useful ideas from around the world:

1. Comprehensive. Their respective induction approaches are highly structured, comprehensive, rigorous, and seriously monitored. There are well-defined roles of their leadership personnel: staff developers, administrators, instructors, mentors, or formateurs (someone who helps to form a teacher in the French system).

2. Professional learning. The induction programs of the five countries each focus on professional learning, and delivering growth and professionalism to their teachers. They achieve this with an organized, sustained professional development system using a variety of methods. These countries all consider their induction program to be one phase or part of a total lifelong professional learning process, with many components in the induction and greater professional learning process.

3. Collaboration. Collaboration is the forté of each of the five induction programs. Collaborative group work is understood, fostered, and accepted as a part of the teaching culture in the five countries surveyed. There are shared experiences, shared practices, shared tools, and a shared language among all colleagues. And it is the function of the induction phase to engender this sense of group identity and treat new teachers as colleagues and cohorts.

In contrast, in U.S. schools isolation is the common thread and complaint among new teachers. “I never sat in anyone else’s classroom even once,” lamented first-year teacher Gail A. Saborio of Wakefield, Rhode Island. “Mine is the only teaching style I know. I felt that sometimes I was reinventing the wheel” (DePaul, 2000, p. 2). Educators must go beyond mentoring to comprehensive induction programs, if they hope to redesign professional development (Wong, 2001).

Induction: The Beginning Phase of Professional Development Current estimates show that over 50% of new teachers will leave in their first 5 years of teaching (Hare & Heap, 2001). The main problem is an exodus of new teachers from the profession, with more than 30% leaving within 5 years and, in low-income schools, as much as 50% or higher than affluent schools (Darling-Hammond & Sykes, 2003). Christina Asquith lasted 1 year as a new 46 NASSP Bulletin s Vol. 88 No. 638 March 2004 teacher in Philadelphia (Wong & Asquith, 2002). She wrote, “I received one day of orientation, during which I mostly filled out forms. No one officially welcomed me or the other three new teachers to my school. In fact, the veteran teachers received us with skepticism, at best. Apparently, I was assigned a mentor, but she was busy with her own classroom” (p. 22). Although stories like these are legion, in contrast, Wong (2002a) reported that, from 1999 to 2002, the Leyden High School District in Franklin Park, Illinois, hired 90 teachers and lost only 4, an attrition rate of 4.4%.

Here are attrition rates from some districts that had induction programs

in the school year 2001–2002:

• Lafourche Parish Schools in Louisiana lost 1 teacher out of 46 hired

• Islip Public Schools in New York lost 3 teachers out of 68 hired

• Leyden High School District in Illinois lost 4 teachers out of 90 hired

• Geneva Community Schools in New York lost 5 teachers out of 67 hired

• Newport-Mesa School District in California lost 5 teachers out of 148 hired.

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