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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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The Lafourche Parish Public Schools in Thibodaux, Louisiana, lost 1 teacher out of the 46 new teachers hired for the 2001–2002 school year. Even more remarkable, of the 279 teachers the district has hired in the past 4 years, only 11 have left teaching. Those are attrition rates of 2.2% and 3.9%, respectively. More importantly, more than 99% of the new teachers who have participated in the Lafourche induction program have successfully completed the performance-based Louisiana Teacher Assistance and Assessment Program. The Lafourche induction program is so successful that Louisiana has adopted it as the statewide model for all school districts. (Information regarding the Louisiana model can be found at www.doe.state.la.us/DOE/OQE/ certification/LaFirst_r1.pdf.) What these districts with low attrition rates have in common are comprehensive, coherent, and sustained induction programs, which is the typical and ubiquitous process used by all profit and nonprofit organizations, large and small businesses, and even sports teams, professional or Little League. They train and continue to train (Breaux & Wong, 2003) their employees or team members according to a structured training program that is part of the induction into the organization’s infrastructure, vision, and culture. Teachers are no different. They want training, they want to fit in, and they want their students to achieve. For the most part, education has failed to recognize what other industries have known almost from the start: formalized sustained training matters. Without carefully thought out professional development programs, school districts will not have effective teachers who can produce student achievement results. A study of seven urban districts (Cross & Rigden, NASSP Bulletin s Vol. 88 No. 638 March 2004

2002) reported that the only reform effort that clearly resulted in student achievement gains had clear instructional expectations, supported by extensive professional development, over a period of several years.

Elements of Successful Induction Programs Induction is a comprehensive, multiyear process designed to train and acculturate new teachers in the academic standards and vision of the district. No two induction programs are exactly alike; each caters to the individual culture and specific needs of its unique school or district. However, there are several common components that underlie the most successful

induction programs (see Figure 4):

• Begin with an initial 4 or 5 days of induction before school starts

• Offer a continuum of professional development through systematic training over a period of 2 or 3 years

• Provide study groups in which new teachers can network and build support, commitment, and leadership in a learning community

• Incorporate a strong sense of administrative support

• Integrate a mentoring component into the induction process

• Present a structure for modeling effective teaching during inservices and mentoring

• Provide opportunities for inductees to visit demonstration classrooms.

Fullan (2001) stated that sustained success is never just one special event, meeting, or activity; rather, it is a journey of recursive decisions and actions. Britton et al. (2003) reported that many countries outside of the United States already see mentoring as just one piece of the teacher induction puzzle. Teachers receive a broad range of support services as groups of teachers meet weekly with similar groups from other schools, expanding their guidance beyond what can be provided by only a single mentor within their own school.

To produce effective teachers, there must be a professional development program that improves professional skills for educators at every point in their careers. Kardos (2003), in her aforementioned survey of 486 teachers, concluded that few schools acknowledge that learning the art and craft of teaching happens over time. Learning to teach is a developmental process that takes several years. What is important in the life of a new teacher is the presence of a district articulated, coherent, lifelong professional development program.

In Tucson, Arizona, the Flowing Wells Schools’ professional development department is organized under the banner of the Institute for Teacher ReNASSP Bulletin s Vol. 88 No. 638 March 2004 Figure 4. Some components of induction programs

–  –  –

newal and Growth, of which the new teacher induction program is the first phase. The induction program of 5 to 8 years is followed by lifelong, in-house course offerings that are designed for veteran teacher renewal and growth.

This program can explain why Flowing Wells has produced 12 finalists for teachers-of-the-year for the state of Arizona, more than any other school district. Such results are arguably the result of an organized, sustained professional development program. Their induction program is so well-known and replicated that they hold an annual workshop to explain their structure to other interested parties (Breaux & Wong, 2003).

After attending one of these workshops, a staff developer shared the


Words will not adequately describe how impressed I am with Flowing Wells. What amazes me is that no matter who you speak with, from the superintendent to the principals, teachers, students, even the food service workers, everyone truly shares and vocalizes the same vision and mission. The induction program is an incredibly designed, implemented, and focused plan of staff development. The support for new teachers (and all teachers) in Flowing Wells is so evident, and so powerful. When you speak of a school district as a family, Flowing Wells truly exemplifies that.

Whereas the Flowing Wells induction program is orchestrated by a school district, the state of Connecticut has a rather impressive statewide process.

Youngs (2003), while researching Connecticut’s induction program, found that new teachers must complete a 3-year induction process before they are fully certified. The process is called the Connecticut Beginning Educator Support and Training (BEST) Program for new teachers. It was started around 1985, NASSP Bulletin s Vol. 88 No. 638 March 2004 championed by the efforts of Mark Shedd and Gerald Tirozzi, respective and succeeding commissioners of education.

At the site level, BEST requires that districts provide each new teacher a mentor or a team of mentors for at least the first year of the program. In their second year, new teachers in most content areas must complete a contentspecific portfolio, designed to assess their pedagogical knowledge and skill.

These entries include a description of their teaching context, a set of lesson plans, two videotapes of instruction during the unit, samples of student work, and teacher commentaries on their planning, instruction, and assessment of student progress. Teams of teachers hired and trained by the Connecticut Department of Education review the portfolios and videos. Teachers who do not receive a passing score, after a second attempt, are denied a license, and may no longer teach in the state’s public schools.

Thus, school districts in Connecticut are required to develop a comprehensive, sustained induction program to ensure that all elements for preparing their new teachers are aligned to an effective education system that prepares students, teachers, and schools to succeed. This confirms the research of Hiebert, Gallimore, and Stigler (2002) that consistently supports the need for systematic induction of new teachers and the ongoing professional development of all teachers.

Teachers Learn Best From Collaboration To keep good teachers, educators need to realize that people crave connection (Wong, 2003a). New teachers want more than a job. They want to experience success. They want to contribute to a group. They want to make a difference. The best induction programs provide connection because they are structured within learning communities where new and veteran teachers interact and treat each other with respect and are valued for their respective contributions. Teachers remain in teaching when they belong to professional learning communities that have, at their heart, high-quality interpersonal relationships founded on trust and respect. Thus, collegial interchange, not isolation, must become the norm for teachers.

Johnson and Birkeland (2003), reporting on their study of 50 teachers in Massachusetts, concluded, “Our work suggests that schools would do better to rely less on one-to-one mentoring and, instead, develop schoolwide structures that promote the frequent exchange of information and ideas among novice and veteran teachers” (p. 608).

Garet, Porter, Desmoine, Birman, and Kwang (2001), from a study with 1,027 public school math and science teachers in kindergarten through grade 12, reported that teachers learn more: in teacher networks and study groups than with mentoring; in professional development programs that are longer, sustained, and intensive than shorter ones; when there is collective 50 NASSP Bulletin s Vol. 88 No. 638 March 2004 participation; and when they perceive teacher learning and development as part of the coherent professional development program. Thus, successful

induction programs:

• Have networks that create learning communities

• Treat every colleague as a potential valuable contributor

• Turn ownership of learning over to the learners in study groups

• Create learning communities where everyone, new teachers as well as veteran teachers, gains knowledge

• Demonstrate that quality teaching becomes not just an individual responsibility, but a group responsibility as well.

In the aforementioned Islip Public Schools, the induction program features collaborative study group activities. During their comprehensive, 3-year induction program, new teachers proceed through their tenure-track program in which team-building activities are included to promote a sense of cohesion and belonging as they build relationships in support groups.

Collegial circles meet informally in between formal monthly meetings. John Christie, a social studies teacher, noted, “At Islip, the induction program allowed me to share new teacher concerns, realize I wasn’t alone, and discover solutions in a collegial environment.” Lorraine Knoblanch, a new teacher, stated, “The best part of this year was how our relationships with the other teachers developed. We really have developed into a family. We share concerns and triumphs and meet after school on many occasions. The connections are invaluable.” The Port Huron area schools in Michigan (Wong, 2002c) began a new teacher induction program in 1991. The program is a cooperative effort between the school’s staff development department and the teachers’ union.

William Kimball, who was responsible for initiating the program and who became the district superintendent in 1998, remarked, “After 7 years, there were more induction-bred teachers than veteran teachers in our system, and you can see it today by the change in our culture.” Cathy Lozen, director of the induction program, commented that at the end of one of the 4-day, preschool year workshops, she returned to her office to find flowers from all the participants and a card thanking those responsible for the workshop. The card read, “We now feel like welcomed members of the Port Huron family.” Lozen added, “We had become a cohesive and caring group in 4 days. We all bonded and our district is truly better for it. What a feeling!” Because of the success of districts such as these in producing effective

teachers, educators know the following:

• The era of isolated teaching is over. Good teaching thrives in a collaborative learning environment created by teachers and school leaders NASSP Bulletin s Vol. 88 No. 638 March 2004 working together to improve learning in strong professional learning communities.

• Teachers thrive when they feel connected to their schools and colleagues. This is only possible when there is a strong professional learning community.

• Teachers want and need to belong. If they do not belong in a positive way, they will belong in a negative way.

• Effective schools have a high-performance culture, with a trademark of collaborative responsibility for the learning of all students.

• Teachers remain with a district when they feel supported by administrators, have strong bonds with their colleagues, and are collectively committed to pursuing a common vision for student learning in a performance-oriented culture as they build capacity and community.

What keeps good teachers teaching is 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. Fullan (2003) stated that what is needed is a “distributed leadership,” which requires people to operate in networks of shared and complementary expertise rather than in hierarchies.

Teachers express more satisfaction in schools when schools give them more time to work and learn together, and when teaching teams can work with groups of students. Palombo (2003) reported how the Ipswich (MA) Public Schools designed a professional development model where they publish their model lessons and curriculum materials resulting from collaborative action research and workshops. These documented lessons help solidify teachers’ knowledge, demonstrate what they learned, and allow that learning to be shared with other teachers in a useful and efficient way. Professional development is effective when it focuses on student learning, promotes collaboration, and ensures sustainability.

The Annenberg Challenge Foundation (Rothman, 2002/2003) reported on high schools that are reforming teacher learning by bringing teachers together to focus on improving instruction. Teachers work together, creating collaborative teams that analyze and critique each other’s work. They situate collegial teacher learning at the school as a routine part of the workday and make public the work of teaching, sharing with the larger community what has been learned. Collaboration supports sustainability where teachers feel they are working together to benefit students and the district at large with a collegial mindset and in a collaborative culture.

52 NASSP Bulletin s Vol. 88 No. 638 March 2004 How Principals Can Implement an Induction Program A comprehensive professional development program is required to prepare effective teachers. Elmore (2002) wrote, “Schools that seem to do best are those that have a clear idea of what kind of instructional practice they want to produce, and then design a structure to go with it” (Introduction, 1). The task is to engage in practice around the notion of “SUSTAINED and continuous progress toward a performance goal over time” (Introduction, 5).

In their examination of and reporting about more than 30 new teacher induction programs, Breaux and Wong (2003) discovered the inevitable presence of a leader. They do not usurp their leadership role by simply giving each new teacher a mentor without rigorous monitoring. Outstanding administrator leaders have a deep understanding of the teachers and students they lead. They work with a firm conviction that all teachers have the potential to become effective teachers. They are eager to collaborate with their teachers and even teach them. They are active learners themselves, cultivating their own professional growth throughout their careers. Finally, they are role models, instilling a passion for learning in their teachers.

What new teachers need is sustained, school-based professional development guided by expert colleagues. Principals and teacher leaders have the

largest roles to play in fostering such experiences (Johnson & Kardos, 2002):

• Administrators, staff developers, and teacher leaders must have the knowledge and skills to direct an induction process that creates and supports a results-driven, team-focused, professional learning and collaborative culture that is part of every teacher’s work day.

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