NTC Updates

There is a shift away from bringing new teachers on board by pairing them with a “buddy down the hall” toward a more formal, comprehensive support system proven to make new teachers more effective from the start, according to a Harvard Education Letter article entitled “Getting Serious about Induction.”

Harvard Education Letter writer Suzanne Bouffard guides readers through this shift, including what sparked it and what it means for school districts across the country.

The teaching force today is significantly less experienced than ever before, and far less stable. The teaching workforce is “greening” and the most common teacher this year is a beginner in the first year of teaching. And by the time these new teachers are expected to hit their stride in the classroom, about five years in, almost half have quit.

These changing demographics are combined with a growing focus on accountability and recognition that new teachers need to become more effective with students more quickly. It’s clear why less rigorous teacher onboarding is falling out of favor.

In her article, Bouffard highlights programs that have adopted a more comprehensive approach that is research-based and targeted to instruction and getting results.

And recently some districts have been reporting impressive results. Hillsborough County, Fla., the eighth-largest district in the country, includes an intensive induction program in its Empowering Effective Teachers initiative, a comprehensive effort funded in part by a $100 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that also includes peer evaluation for both new and veteran teachers. The district has seen retention of first-year teachers jump from 72 percent the year before the program began to 94 percent after the second year. More importantly, third-year teachers who received two years of mentoring and other induction supports outperformed the district average on the number of teachers meeting the “accomplished” criteria on observations of teacher effectiveness.

New Teacher Center (NTC), a national nonprofit organization founded by teachers and based in Santa Cruz, Calif., works with Hillsborough County and other districts, schools, and states around the country to improve student achievement by increasing the effectiveness of new teachers and administrators. According to Jordan Brophy-Hilton, senior director of programs and partnerships, an effective induction program includes both classroom-level support and a districtwide infrastructure, with the vision and goals of the program well integrated into the district’s strategic plan as well as into its approach to developing teachers’ skills and careers over time.

Bouffard goes on to describe programs in place and several steps being taken to ensure program sustainability in Hillsborough County Public Schools, Rhode Island Department of Education, Fairfax County, Virginia, and Austin, Texas – which all partner with New Teacher Center and have implemented NTC’s comprehensive model of new teacher induction.

The article closes with several reflections on the benefits of investing in new teacher induction:

[David Steele, project director for Hillsborough’s Empowering Effective Teachers] projects that the teacher induction program will save money in the long run by reducing costs associated with hiring and training new teachers. [Charles Coble, an expert on teacher education and development who oversaw teacher preparation programs across the University of North Carolina system] agrees about the potential savings of high-quality induction, counseling districts to “invest now or invest more later.” A cost-benefit analysis of one district’s new teacher induction program conducted by the NTC supports their argument. It found that “four groups—students, new teachers, districts, and the state—all benefit from the investment in comprehensive induction,” including a return of $1.88 per dollar invested to the district and $3.61 to new teachers.

But it’s not just the economic benefit that Steele and others cite when they advise districts to invest in induction. It’s the benefit to the many first-year teachers, as well as to the teaching profession as a whole. As [Hilda ­Potrzeba, educator quality and certification specialist at the Rhode Island Department of Education] puts it: “You can’t rewind that first year in your career. It has to be great from the beginning.”

Excerpted with permission from Suzanne Bouffard, “Getting Serious about Induction: New programs aim to speed up learning curve for new teachers,”Harvard Education Letter volume 29n5 (September/October 2013), pp. 4-6. For more information, please visit edletter.org.