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TNLI: Action Research: Curriculum Implementation: Teacher Networks and New Teachers

Our Teacher Research: Past & Present

Helping all students achieve higher standards

Teacher preparation and new teacher induction   Ongoing teacher professional growth   Teacher networks
Teacher leadership in school change   Helping all students achieve higher standards      

Teacher Networks and New Teachers

by Jane Fung

Research Question
What is the impact of ongoing collaboration in a teacher network on new teachers understanding and use of state standards in classroom practice?

Every year, California hires thousands of new, non-credentialed teachers to fill its teaching positions. Many of the newly-hired teachers enter the classroom with little or no training in the field of education. Of the new teachers who enter the profession each year, about 30 percent leave teaching in the first few years. Some areas of California are reporting new teacher attrition rates as high as 50 percent within the first five years. But studies show that new teachers who have continuous support are less likely to leave the profession. My concern, as a mentor and former non-credentialed teacher, is that many of these new educators are not receiving adequate support or being provided with meaningful professional development opportunities to help them become effective and permanent members of our profession. 

This year, our school district's focus is on the new California English Language Arts Content Standards with an emphasis on teaching reading. Teachers are expected to create, implement, and assess standards-based lessons. This is not an easy task for an experienced and trained educator and very difficult, indeed, for a new one. 

I teach in an urban primary school (K-2) near downtown Los Angeles. Currently, over 55 percent of the teachers at my school are non-credentialed and have taught for less than three years. Most of them have not taken a formal reading methods class prior to entering the classroom, so it is necessary to train these new teachers so they can provide quality language arts instruction. Although these new educators are eager to learn and develop their craft, there are few opportunities in our district to meet and collaborate on an ongoing basis.

Five years ago, a group of new teachers and I created The Early Literacy Club (ELC) at our school site, Initially the goals of the ELC were to provide much needed instructional and emotional support during the induction period for the overwhelmed beginning teacher. With student achievement in state language arts standards as a central focus in our state and district this year, I wanted to research the impact ongoing collaboration in a teacher network has on new teachers' understanding and use of state in classroom practice.


  • Two questionnaires, one to be filled out in the fall and the other in the spring, from each member of the network
  • Classroom observations made by members throughout the year
  • Teacher reflections on state standards, the collaborative process, and classroom instruction
  • Documents created by the network: "Language Arts Standards Time Line and "Language Arts Standards Resource Guide for Teachers"
Members of the Network agreed to produce two documents-a "Language Arts Standards Time Line" and a "Language Arts Standards Resource Guide for Teachers." The time line provides a sequential listing of standards to be addressed on an eight-month pacing plan. The resource guide was developed cooperatively. Each member was assigned a specific language arts standard for research. Then the member developed instructional strategies an activities designed to help students meet that standard. The resource guide will also include an assessment component to measure students' mastery of state standards. The teachers are in the process of revising, editing, and testing classroom strategies listed for each standard.

All the new teachers reported that the network was instrumental in helping improve and refine their classroom practice. The also expressed a feeling of accomplishment when working with peers collaboratively on standards articulation, and reflected that the network not only provided them with professional development, but emotional support as well.

All the teachers involved in the ELC have retained their classroom teaching positions, and as a result of network participation, new teachers have: 
  • Demonstrated an improvement in their professional practices
  • Acquired a deeper understanding of state standards and subjects matter knowledge
  • Gained confidence in their own teaching
  • Participated in creating teach resources
  • Accessed a readily-available support system and opportunities to collaborate regularly
  • Sought further professional development opportunities in addition to the network
  • Elected to take on leadership roles both at school and in the progression
  • Reported greater job satisfaction 

Although the network was made available to all new teachers at my school, two of them chose not to participate. Both these teachers have left permanent jobs in the classroom, although I believe they are currently employed as substitutes in the district. Teacher networks are a valuable tool in training and supporting new teachers at my school, but to remain effective they need to be voluntary. 

My study shows the importance of ongoing support and collaboration in the training of new teachers. We know that new teachers that are supported and trained effectively are less likely to leave the profession. Networks are one way to help new teachers improve their teaching practices in a comfortable, risk-free environment. My policy implications are as follows:

State District University District/School
Include networks as an option for new-teacher support in the mentor program Support teachers that choose to collaborate by offering credit for salary point. Provide opportunities for pre-service teachers to become actively involve in teaching networks by establishing networks at the university level to be continued through teacher induction. Provide time for teacher during the school day and / or throughout the year to collaborate on an ongoing basis.

Student achievement is the focus of education, but we must also address the issue of who is teaching our children. We all agree that effective teachers produce successful students, but who is training and supporting these teachers? We must remember that we, the educators must also be given opportunities to learn and achieve as well. The more knowledgeable and successful we are as educators, the more our students will achieve.


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