Programs aim to retain new teachers

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CPS is counting on an array of new teacher orientation programs to reinforce its proactive hiring strategy.

“Teacher retention begins when teachers are hired,” says Nancy Slavin, CPS manager of teacher recruitment. “We want to do everything we can to retain teachers.”

A recent national study found that new teacher turnover in the first five years was 50 percent on average and even higher in urban districts. About 30 percent of teachers new to CPS left within five years, according to a 1999 CATALYST survey.

Increased awareness here and elsewhere is giving rise to a host of teacher induction programs that aim to keep more teachers in classrooms by providing additional support and training. The most effective induction programs extend support throughout a teacher’s career and improve overall school climate, according to Recruiting New Teachers, a nonprofit consulting firm based near Boston.

However, only 16 states—Indiana, Kentucky and California among them—require and pay for induction programs for all new teachers.

Last year, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law that allowed teachers to count participation in induction programs toward earning full certification.

However, funding proposed for induction programs in Illinois was eliminated in next year’s budget, and some induction programs may be discontinued, says a spokeswoman for the Illinois Board of Education.

In April 2002, CPS revamped its 7-year-old teacher induction program, MINT, for Mentoring and Induction of New Teachers, and renamed it GOLDEN or Guidance Orientation and Leadership Development Empowering New Teachers. Last year, approximately 1,500 new teachers attended orientation for the program, according to CPS.

Following are highlights of the CPS induction program, and other district programs for new teachers.

GOLDEN

A required, two-year support program, GOLDEN pairs new teachers with a mentor teacher, invites them to do peer observation, and prepares individual growth plans to track each teacher’s progress. It also conducts professional development workshops and plans networking events.

First- and second-year teachers work with mentors who introduce them to CPS policy as well as model professional teaching practices. New teachers observe mentors as they teach, and mentors observe new teachers in action. The pairs meet before and after these sessions—four are required—to discuss pedagogy.

Under GOLDEN, workshops are optional and cover topics that range from classroom management strategies to briefings on the district’s reading, math and science initiatives to goal setting and reflection.

New teachers are also encouraged to venture beyond the CPS Teachers Academy offerings. All are required to complete 30 hours of professional development in two years. (By contrast, MINT dictated which professional development courses teachers had to take.)

Another new twist: This spring, CPS is requiring all schools to designate a teacher to serve as a lead mentor who will create, then implement, a school-wide new teacher support plan. Lead mentors are required to attend four training sessions in May and June. CPS reports that 400 schools have selected lead mentors, and area instructional officers are working to get 200 more on board.

RISE

Beginning this fall, five or six CPS schools will participate in a pilot program to offer new teachers access to an online networking service. Temp Keller, who founded the program two and a half years ago in the California Bay Area, says the program addresses three issues that are critical to new teachers: lack of money, low professional status and isolated work environments.

RISE, which stands for Resources for Indispensable Schools and Educators, connects teachers electronically with professional development services, other teachers and job opportunities in low-income areas. It also offers discounts on classroom materials.

Smith Elementary, South Shore High and a new charter school have already signed on. The cost of the program is $750 per school; CPS is picking up half of the tab.

Consistency Management & Cooperative Discipline

Classroom management is widely recognized as a weak spot for new teachers, and experts recommend that induction programs address it. A 6-year-old pilot program in classroom management plans to double the number of North Lawndale schools it works with next fall.

Developed in 1986 by a University of Houston researcher, Consistency Management and Cooperative Discipline provides new teachers with strategies to engage students and deter discipline problems. Schools that have used the program report that it reduced the number of discipline referrals and improved test scores. Estimated costs for the program run $522 per new teacher in the first year.

The MacDougal Family Foundation is picking up some of the expense, CPS will pay the rest. Six elementary schools will be new to the program next year. They are Bethune, Erikson, Gregory, Howland, Kelman and Mason. Returning schools include Herzel, Dvorsak, Lathrup, Johnson, Pope and Chalmers.

Ignite the Light

Another relatively new program in North Lawndale, Ignite the Light offers a week-long summer orientation to introduce new teachers to the community and CPS policies.

The teachers also take a walking tour of their school’s attendance area and visit students’ homes to meet parents.

Last summer, the program served 40 new teachers in Area 8.