Trust fall

New Teacher Induction: The Next Casualty?

Jess Ledbetter Uncategorized

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Over the past few years, I’ve seen many changes in New Teacher Induction (NTI) programs as my district responds to state budget cuts. NTI programs are district supports that help early career teachers succeed with their job responsibilities at the beginning of their careers. There is a multitude of research showing that mentoring programs like NTI increase retention, improve teaching pedagogy, enhance student achievement, and contribute to teacher health and wellness during early years teaching. I am so grateful that we have NTI programs in my district because I did not have these supports when I was an early career teacher in another district. I deeply believe that NTI programs provide valuable support for teachers as growing professionals.

I have been an induction coach for early career special education teachers in my district for the past four years. Supporting early career teachers is one of my greatest passions because I believe in the profession, and I desperately want to plug the gaping hole of attrition as teachers leave the field. I’m happy to share that my district has a relatively high retention rate for early career special education teachers (Sadly, it’s often the more experienced teachers who leave.) I think that one of the reasons for high retention of early career special education teachers relates to our NTI programs. So, I am troubled when I see these programs change year to year in response to budget cuts.

I have seen so many shifts in NTI over my past four years. The greatest changes relate to the time available for NTI meetings and the compensation for teachers who participate. The year before I began coaching, NTI meetings were three hours long and there were 10 meetings each year (30 hours total training). My first year coaching, NTI meetings were cut to two hours long with 10 meetings each year (20 hours total training). During both of these school years, early career teachers were awarded Prop 301 monies as compensation for participation in NTI outside their contracted work day. Recent changes to Prop 301 monies require the funds to be tied to teacher performance and student achievement rather than teacher professional development activities. As a result, these funds can no longer support NTI programs. Therefore, two years ago our NTI program switched from after-school meetings to during-school professional development trainings on early release days. Teachers attended six trainings for two hours (12 hours total). That was one of the saddest years for me. It was incredibly challenging to develop collaborative, supportive culture within this structure. I could see that our teachers really suffered, and we collected data as coaches to help illustrate the problem. Thankfully, our district responded by switching NTI programs back to after-school meetings this past year. Teachers were asked to attend these eight meetings, each for 1.5 hours (12 hours total) as part of their professional responsibilities since no money could be provided.

You probably noticed the trend above—hours of time slipping away each year and the elimination of teacher compensation. It’s a big price to pay for state budget cuts and changes to educational policy. Each year, we struggle as coaches to pack the content we need to deliver into less and less time. We have been very creative these last few years–modifying content to cover the most important material and sadly eliminating less important (though very helpful!) content that might have improved teacher success. There just hasn’t been enough time.

This last year, I started a NTI special education teacher wiki site where I added resources that we didn’t have time to cover during our sessions. It was a valuable solution so that we could continue to devote time to team building and mental wellness that we have tried eliminating (with negative results) in the past when training time decreased. Last year, we had one of our best years ever. I felt like our teachers were nurtured, built supportive relationships with others, and developed excellent leadership qualities. Despite all the time cuts, I thought we had finally figured out a way to make it work within the time allotted. And then I found out…our time has been cut again for next year.

This coming school year, the NTI program will only be eight sessions of one hour each (8 hours total). If you remember, this program was once 30 hours of packed content. Now, we have only 8 hours for the very important task of supporting early career special education teachers with their complex job responsibilities. I was a little bit crushed when I heard the news. I just don’t see how the task can be done, honestly. I know that we will have to eliminate very important content this coming year—and I know that teachers will suffer for it. Worst of all, I fear that team-building is one of the things that will have to go. There really just isn’t time anymore.

In addition to the one-hour meetings, teachers will also complete online modules that have been developed by an outside, non-profit agency. Induction coaches watched one of the modules during a recent training, and it made me want to gouge my eyes out in boredom. In my opinion, there’s nothing that can make online learning engaging after a long day of teaching. Are we really asking teachers to sacrifice their time together getting real-life training in place of online modules? I think that this poses a huge risk to morale. Other induction coaches had more positive opinions about the online modules, such as mentioning the benefits of standardized content. I suppose that this could be a benefit to consider—but when actual time together is eliminated, I don’t see how the benefits outweigh the cost.

As I see NTI programs decreasing each year, I encourage experienced teachers in the field to reach out to early career teachers on your campuses. I fear that new teacher supports may be the next casualty on the long list of school budget changes. Now, we must all work together to provide the supports these teachers need to develop efficacy and success for long, long teaching careers.

 

I teach preschool students with developmental delays in a Title I school in Glendale, Arizona. I am a National Board Certified Teacher (ENS-ECYA), an Arizona Hope Street Group Teacher Fellow Alumni, and a Candidate Support Provider for teachers seeking their National Board Certification. I earned my doctorate in Educational Leadership and Innovation at ASU. My research explored how early career special education teachers collaborated with peers to increase their team leadership skills working with paraeducators in their individual classrooms. I believe all teachers are leaders in their classrooms and possess the skills to be leaders within their schools, districts, communities, and greater context. I am passionate about National Board Certification, mentoring early career teachers, improving teacher retention, elevating teacher voice, and collaborating with a network of courageous educators who passionately advocate for kids and schools. I believe that real-life stories from our schools should inform the policies that affect students, teachers, and their communities. Therefore, I am grateful to have the opportunity to share my stories here. I welcome your comments on my blog posts and hope that we can advance the dialogue together.

Comments 10

  1. Mandie Smithmier Lottes

    New teacher induction is where I bought in to the vision and mission of my school and my district! So important for teacher retention!

  2. Gwen Walton

    We have a new teacher induction week at the end of the summer and support our new staff members with their site based instructional specialists throughout the year. I feel lucky to be a part of this team and work in a district where this is valued.

  3. Alex Odell Houseman

    Our school does not have a new teacher induction but it something that could be extremely valuable. We have new teacher training but the new teachers do not get to meet all those who can offer them specialized support. Definitely something to considered as means of supporting and retaining our new teachers.

  4. Melissa Girmscheid

    I love the idea of the wiki. Teacher time is so valuable and needs to be respected, especially for those new teachers trying to find their footing in the classroom.

    1. Jess Ledbetter

      Hi, Melissa! If you would like to start a free wiki for any topic, I highly recommend PB Works. The site offers free wikis for educators. I found there was a slight learning curve to make it do what I wanted it to do (but I had high expectations!). I can create virtually anything I want through the platform if I take the time to figure out how to do it. There are great little widgets and other helpful tools as well. If you want to track the usage of whatever wiki you create, you can do that as well using Google Analytics (also free through Google). There is so much that educators can do today to work collaboratively online. I love PB works because I can add as many writers as I want–creating a collaborative online space. Further, PB Works tracks all changes on the site so you can revert back to a previous version if anyone makes an errors and deletes something important. There are great uses for PB Works with students in classrooms as well :)

  5. Chantell McNeese

    I agree with you to encourage experienced teachers to reach out to our new to the profession teachers. We’ve implemented a Peer Mentoring program within our district and it has been very successful! Great article!

  6. Jess Ledbetter

    It’s great to see so many people interested in this topic! I am SO PASSIONATE about new teacher induction. I think it provides a launching ground to keep our talented early career teachers supported and retained in the field. As a coach, I benefit so much from their innovative new ideas when we get together for meetings! Further, these teachers benefit each other so much when they get together and share ideas, successes, failures, and strategies. I’m glad to hear that other districts have supports for their early career teachers, too. Hopefully, we can all advocate to keep these programs going as state budget cuts take their toll around us.

  7. April

    I had the privilege to mentor new teachers for a year. I have to say that more in addition to consistent, revisited professional development, having regular meetings, classroom visits, and opportunities to collaborate was key. When we surveyed new teachers, it was this consistency of job embedded mentoring that made the most impact for them. It saddens me that the funding cuts are hurting quality mentoring programs. It is the quality that makes the difference!

    1. Jess Ledbetter

      Hi, April! I have definitely seen research that supports what you report in practice: job embedded mentoring is key for early career teachers (and let’s be honest…helpful to ALL teachers!) It’s great to hear that your district has that in place–and that your teachers recognize the benefit. You also mentioned the importance of “opportunities to collaborate.” Looking ahead to next year’s decreased time for induction meetings, I think that I am grieving the collaboration time the most. Teachers have to actually BE together in order to develop collaborative relationships. I am so sad to see time together cut in place of online modules–it will be interesting to see if/how it changes our outcomes and collaborative culture this coming year. Thanks for your comments!

  8. Sandy Merz

    This is an immense issue at my school and can make or break the entire year. In recent years, we’ve had several open positions – including math and language arts. The kids got used to learning how to run off people they didn’t like. Then when we do get a new hire they are terribly treated. We’ve been working on ideas to onboard new teachers filling open position. One is that they spend a day or two observing classes and students and teachers. Then, when they start with their classes, have us sit in on their classes (during our planning periods) and helping with names, and whatnot. The whole idea is for students to see that the we see the new teacher as a colleague and part of the team.

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