Taking charge of a classroom for the first time is no small task. Without the necessary support to hone their craft in the critical first years of practice, beginning teachers can feel like they’ve been left to “sink or swim” on their own. As teachers readjust to in-person classrooms, it’s never been more critical for professional learning programs to focus on new teaching talent.
Employee orientation and ongoing support programs — widely known as new teacher induction (NTI) — provide new-to-the-classroom teachers with the tools to:
But NTI isn’t just about sharpening the skills of new teachers. The education labor shortage is growing, and new research shows that, while the widely-quoted 50% attrition rate may be inaccurate, high-quality mentorship and support makes a huge difference for retaining classroom talent — in some cases halving the probability of turnover. Moreover, the research also suggests that the effects depend on the strength of the support network, from mentorships to classroom aids to coaching and beyond.
So how to ensure NTI programs are working across the district? Good data practices that keep administrators informed, coaches aligned, and educators clear on their next steps. But of course, this is easier said than done — a fact that Keller Independent School District knows well. We spoke with Valerie Minor, Coordinator of Professional Development and Mentoring, about Keller’s NTI and mentorship program, the ins and outs of creating valuable data structures, and much more.
Located in the Dallas Fort Worth suburbs, Keller ISD is a thriving district made up of four high schools, seven middle schools, and 28 elementary/intermediate campuses. The district uses feeder patterns to route students through the K-12 journey, culminating in one of the four high schools. This means that the goals for new teachers may vary depending on which school they are hired into: “Each feeder pattern has a different focus that they work on,” says Minor. “So being part of the district support system, our curriculum and instruction department is really [focused on] specialized support for each of those feeder patterns based on the initiatives that they are tackling with each one.”
Keller’s NTI program is a two-year support system for first- and second-year teachers, focusing on classroom management fundamentals and student engagement. It kicks off with a “new hire week” in August, with classroom simulations starting the first day. Mentor teachers guide new educators through setting up the classroom and first week of instructional planning. They’re also pulled into small cohorts throughout the year — replaced by e-PLCs during COVID — as well as personal meetings with Minor once per semester, and monthly non-evaluative observations.
Minor uses a classroom walkthrough form for these visits, but “it’s really just data for us,” she says. “If we do see a concern, that’s when we would set up a meeting with the teacher. But otherwise [the visitation schedule] is very casual and low-stress.”
In addition to observations from Minor, each new teacher is assigned a mentor and they work together to define what “growth” means while tracking progress toward the goal:
This kind of formative tracking is valuable because it indicates what new teachers need both individually and as a cohort as they progress through their first year. “It just gives us a pulse on those day-to-day questions, and the [specific] types of support that the mentors need to provide,” says Minor.
Ready to find out more about the nitty-gritty of Keller’s NTI program? Click here to view the recording and dive into the presentation.
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