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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Action Research:
Assessment & Preparation for Assessment: Beginning Teacher Induction: The Roots of Success

by Kristi Thomas (Fairfax County)

Kristi ThomasPrograms must have reduced responsibilities for beginning teachers
Programs must be oriented towards professional growth and separate from formal evaluation
Induction, as part of a restructured workplace, must be a supporting component of a professional development continuum within a culture of high collaboration
Induction programs must include reduced work loads for mentors and appropriate compensation commensurate with the additional responsibility
Beginning Teacher Induction: Program Materials



The systemic enculturation of new members is one of the hallmarks of a true profession. The current lack of formal induction in education is a condition that endangers both the current and future success of our schools and their reforms. The survival of the fittest approach, which permeates countless school systems across our country, is both debilitating and unprofessional. Neglect of our new teachers and their needs limits the success of each individual and consequently, imperils education in our country. Addressing the way we educate these beginning teachers is crucial if we are to strengthen and improve our profession.

The current attrition rates of beginning teachers in the United States are staggering. According to the recent report of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, up to one-third of new teachers will leave the profession within the first few years. Of all the teachers who enter the profession, 40 to 50 percent will leave during the first seven years of their career. As if these statistics are not sobering enough, the State-by-State Report Card in the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future's report indicates that more than half of the states in our country have absolutely no new beginning teacher induction program in place.

"There are few things as deterministic of the entire career of a teacher as getting off to a disastrous start." That disastrous start characterizes the experiences of the majority of first-time teachers in our country--a situation perpetuated by school systems blinded to their needs. Studies are filled with the personal accounts of beginning teachers cast adrift into overwhelming situations. "Most U.S. teachers start their careers in disadvantaged schools where turnover is highest, are assigned the most educationally needy students whom no one else wants to teach," writes educational reform leader Linda Darling-Hammond. "They are given the most demanding teaching loads with the greatest numbers of extra duties, and receive few curriculum materials and no mentoring. After this hazing, many leave. Others learn merely to cope rather than teach well."

Reform experts and educational commissions alike put forward the essential need for induction as one of the cornerstones of teaching's future. Attracting and retaining talented, new teachers is a matter of national crisis. "Teachers Take Charge of Their Learning," the 1996 report of The National Foundation for the Improvement of Education recommends that induction should exist for all novices. The report of the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future opens by stating the premise that "recruiting, preparing, and retaining good teachers is the central strategy for improving schools." From this standpoint, the Commission creates a compelling case for the creation and funding of mentoring programs for beginning teachers. As major reform efforts work toward establishing increased professionalization for teachers, we continue to stumble over this unavoidable issue. One fact is resoundingly clear - beginning teacher induction is an essential component of a vital, prosperous profession. Leslie Huling, one of the foremost experts on teacher induction, puts the challenge quite simply: "A profession has a responsibility to take care of its members and clients. It is professionally irresponsible not to support the new teachers need."

In this paper, I would like to assert several specific criteria for establishing and maintaining programs that will successfully address the needs of the first-year teacher, and of the entire teaching profession. Research suggests that simply having a program in place is not enough--that specific issues must be addressed in order to make beginning teacher induction a successful, meaningful component of a professional development continuum for ALL teachers. "While there is evidence to suggest that induction programs can be successful, it is important for those who develop and implement programs to realize that desired outcomes will rarely be achieved "by accident" just because a program exists. In order for the goals to be achieved, program activities specially targeted toward identified outcomes must be carefully designed and implemented appropriately."

This paper will support the following recommendations for beginning teacher induction:

Programs must be oriented towards professional growth and separate from formal evaluation.

Programs must have reduced responsibilities for beginning teachers.

Induction, as part of a restructured workplace, must be a supporting component of a professional development continuum within a culture of high collaboration.

Induction programs must include reduced work loads for mentors and appropriate compensation commensurate with the additional responsibility.

Programs must have reduced responsibilities for beginning teachers.

The teaching profession is one of the very few, if not the only profession, in which beginners are expected to assume full responsibilities on the first day of the job. This striking fact is one of the "unprofessional" ways we welcome new members into our profession and must be seriously addressed when discussing the beginning teacher dilemma. One of the recommendations of this discussion is that new teachers should not be expected to work a "full" load, but should gradually assume full responsibilities.

Noted reformist Jon Saphier has strong and very specific recommendations regarding the assignments of new teachers. His paper "Bonfires & Magic Bullets: Making Teaching a New Profession," presents his specific design for school restructure.

"Apprentice teachers in the model we are proposing assume responsibility for children and for teaching at a slow and steady pace, but from their first year they spend the bulk of their time on site as an assigned member of a team. They are not on the fringe, nor are they merely observers; they are functioning members of a team that models collegiality, experimentation, consulting, and collaboration. Their responsibility for children, however, is at the level of instructional aide so as to allow time for study, reflection, classes, and seminars. Enculturation takes place by a kind of immersion in teachers' work with the obligations sufficiently lightened to allow for intensive study. During this time they are under the watchful eye of a mentor or a mentoring team with their personal professional growth in mind."

More supportive research for the reduced-load scenario comes from a study released in April 1997 by the U.S. Department of Education. From Students of Teaching to Teachers of Students: Teacher Induction Around the Pacific Rim is a cross-national study of teacher induction practices in Japan, New Zealand, and the Northern Territory of Australia. One of the study's findings was that new teachers in these countries are viewed as professionals on a continuum, with increasing levels of experience and accountability; novice teachers are not expected to do the same job as experienced teachers without significant support. "How different from the typical situation in the U.S., where new teachers all too frequently get the most difficult class assignments, the most educationally needy children, and extra duties."

Programs must be oriented towards professional growth and separate from formal evaluation.

Within this discussion of new teacher demands comes the fact that many current induction efforts in our country focus on assessment. Again, the stress and pressure of such an approach becomes a debilitating factor in the natural growth of a talented young teacher. "Assessment-based induction schemes run the risk of reducing teaching to less significant goals and of repelling the best teacher prospects and teacher-leaders," warns Michael G. Fullan, dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Toronto. This is not to say that new teachers should not be evaluated, but that the "assessment" should be by "safe" mentors in an environment characterized by learning and support. Making mistakes--and learning from them--is an important part of their natural growth.

Findings in the Pacific Rim induction study revealed that assessment of new teachers is down-played in all three of the countries being evaluated. This does not mean that there is no attempt to "weed out" incompetent teachers, but the emphasis is clearly on helping new teachers become better. The absence of serious concern by all induction program participants about meeting certification and registration requirements enhanced the provision of assistance and support. The study also found, however, that "teacher induction in the United States traditionally has focused most heavily on assessment; and assistance where it exists is strongly linked to aiding new teachers to achieve assessment criteria."

The key findings of the study conclude that having assessment as a formal goal of teacher induction appears to have little bearing on program success. "Rather, it is how assessment is conducted and how dominant it is compared to assistance that determines whether the program is perceived as successful. When the goal of assessment is to support the development of teachers through skills evaluations, the program is perceived as non-threatening, generally supportive, and, often, successful."

Induction, as part of a restructured workplace, must be a supporting component of a professional development continuum within a culture of high collaboration.

One of the most pivotal issues of beginning teacher induction is one of vision--of a picture bigger than that of a single program or initiative. This issue revolves around the heightened and repeated plea for commitment to professionalization. A great deal of the research and reform efforts have uncovered an underlying reality of the teaching profession--the treatment of teachers is often neglectful, and in a word, unprofessional. One key concept emerges: the true salvation of the teaching profession may be in the creation of a restructured workplace, a place in which we all have a stake, a place Saphier characterizes as one which establishes a culture of high collaboration. Beginning teacher induction must become a piece of this larger plan.

This is a very powerful ideal. Current research on the impact of professional development initiatives echoes the same important message. Cosmetic programs and drive-by, hit-and-run inservices are not part of a lasting vision, and consequently have little lasting reward. These traditional types of professional development might fill an immediate need, but they are not transformational in nature.

If true reform is to take hold, teacher induction must become part of a professional development continuum within a restructured workplace--a workplace which celebrates continual growth and improvement. Taking responsibility for the training and success of our novices is a huge step toward ownership and growth for all teachers.

"The kind of learning found in rich professional development settings has quite different features: it is centered around the critical activities of teaching and learning - planning lessons, evaluating student work, developing curriculum--rather than around abstractions and generalities; it grows from investigations of practice through cases, questions, analysis, and criticism; and it is built on substantial professional discourse that fosters analysis and communication about practices and values in ways that build collegiality and standards of practice."

There are school systems who have taken great strides in restructuring their workplace toward this continuum. Programs in Cincinnati, Boston, and New York were recognized and highlighted this year as part of the report by the National Commission of Teaching & America's Future. One of the most impressive, and most successful, is the Career in Teaching (CIT) program in Rochester, New York. Established in 1988, CIT is a collaborative effort between the Rochester City School District and the Rochester Teachers Association to revitalize instruction by creating a true profession for teachers. "Central to Rochester's reform movement, CIT aims at improving student attainment by setting new expectations for teachers' roles in school organization and development, decentralizing district operations, and creating school communities accountable for change." The intent of CIT is to improve student outcomes by developing and maintaining the highest caliber teaching staff and by providing teachers with career options that do not require them to leave their teaching assignment in order to assume additional responsibilities and leadership roles.

The Rochester CIT plan supports four career levels:

Intern: Teachers who are new to the profession or district. Interns may receive the assistance of a Lead Teacher/Mentor during their first year in the district.

Resident: Teachers who have successfully completed their internship but are not both permanently certified and tenured.

Professional: Teachers who are both permanently certified and tenured.

Lead Teacher: Professional-level teachers who are selected through an open competitive process for specific instructional and professional leadership roles involving additional time and responsibility.

Lead teachers in Rochester who assume mentor responsibilities are released from their regular classroom responsibilities for 40 percent of their time at the secondary level, and 50 percent of their time at the elementary level. Each mentor has a caseload of four interns. In some instances, these mentors may have a caseload of three interns and one intervention case.

The results of this program are impressive. The overall retention of beginning interns in the ten-year history of the CIT program is 90 percent, as compared to 60 percent before the program was implemented. The profound benefits of this initiative are not only reflected by the success of new teachers, but of the experienced teachers. Given opportunities to participate in a career ladder has significantly improved their professional careers as well. "While interacting with proteges, mentors must analyze and reflect on their own teaching. Interacting with other mentor teachers provides mentors with an appreciation for diversity in teaching styles and settings. Mentoring simply improves the teaching of the mentor."

Induction programs must include reduced work loads for mentors and appropriate compensation commensurate with the additional responsibility.

This final topic addresses an area of universal concern to most members of the teaching profession--inadequate compensation for time spent, and inadequate time to do the job well. The expectations heaped on teachers daily are extraordinary. Few will argue that time is a major factor in their job frustrations, a sentiment magnified by mediocre salaries, and little or no compensation for the "extra" responsibilities that are a part of the workday for most teachers.

Adequate time and compensation for teacher induction programs must be addressed from the start. Although the financial constraints of school districts profoundly influence this issue, school boards and educational leaders must commit to this necessity. The success of beginning teacher programs hinges upon giving mentors the resources to perform their important role to the best of their abilities.

The successful programs in Rochester, Boston, and Cincinnati have recognized the importance of both of these issues. Lead teacher/mentors in Boston currently receive additional compensation at the rate of 12 percent of their annual base salary. Stipends for lead teachers in Rochester range from 5 to15 percent of total salaries, averaging from $3,000 to $9,000. In Cincinnati, salary increments range from $4,500 to $5,000. Fair compensation for additional responsibilities and expertise must be honored by school systems, as it is in other professions. The volunteer mentality that is so strongly associated with the teaching profession must be addressed if we are to succeed.

Release time for mentors is another key component of an effective induction plan. According to Saphier, the role of "mentor" must be formalized and given status within the district--mentors should teach no more that 60 percent of contracted time. A large part of the extraordinary success of the CIT program in Rochester can be related to the mentoring time spent during the actual school day. As was outlined earlier in this paper, Lead teacher/mentors in Rochester who assume mentor responsibilities are released from their regular classroom responsibilities for 40 percent of their time at the secondary level, and 50 percent of their time at the elementary level. Expecting mentors and interns to begin their important work after the school day is unreasonable and ineffective.

In conclusion, the recommendations offered in this policy paper reflect the emergent "big picture" issues related to the new teacher crisis in our country. Induction for all, stressing mentoring plans which foster professionalism for both the new and veteran teacher, would be an ultimate goal. Within the overall context of restructuring schools and professional development, beginning teacher induction becomes one step in a continuum of lifelong learning. Progressive beginning teacher induction initiatives will contribute to the professionalization of our profession. This challenge is eloquently addressed by Ann Lieberman:

"As opportunities increase for professional learning that moves away from the traditional inservice training mode and toward long-term, continuous learning in the context of school and the classroom and with the support of colleagues, the idea of professional development takes on even greater importance. For if teacher learning takes place within the context of a professional community that is nurtured and developed both within and outside the school, then the effects may be more than just an expanded conception of teacher development. Indeed, such teacher learning can bring about significant and lasting school change."


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Clement, Mary C., (1995). "Getting the Most from a Mentor." New Teacher Advocate, 3(2), pp. 7

Cole, Ardra L., (1990). "Helping Teachers Become 'Real': Opportunities in Teacher Induction." Journal of Staff Development, vol. II, no. 4: pp. 6-10

Corcoran, Thomas B., (1995). Transforming Professional Development for Teachers: Guide for State Policymakers. National Governors' Association, Washington, D.C.

Darling-Hammond, Linda, (1996). "What Matters Most: A Competent Teacher for Every Child." Phi Delta Kappan, 78(3), pp.193-200

Darling-Hammond, Linda, (1997). The Right To Learn. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers

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McKenna, Georgiann, (1997). "Collaborative Components for Teacher Induction." Kappa Delta Pi Record, 33(2), pp. 52-54

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Beginning Teacher Induction: Program Materials

Career in Teaching Program
Boston, Massachusetts
Nick Balasalle, Director
5 New Dudley Street
Boston, MA 02120

Career in Teaching Program
Rochester, New York
Carl O'Connell, Mentor Program Coordinator
Rochester City School District
131 West Broad Street
Rochester, NY 14614

Teachers For Chicago
Chicago, Illinois
Fred Chesek, Coordinator
1819 West Pershing Road - 6E(s)
Chicago, IL 60609

Great Beginnings
Fairfax County, Virginia
Sylvia Auton, Director of Staff Development & Training
Dept. of Instructional Services
Walnut Hill Center
7423 Camp Alger Ave.
Falls Church, VA 22042

Career in Teaching Program
Cincinnati, Ohio
230 E. Ninth St.
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

BEST: Beginning Educator Support and Training Program
Connecticut State Department of Education
Hartford, Connecticut
Connecticut State Department of Education
Laurel Wills, ACES
205 Skiff Street
Hamden CT 06517


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