Induction Programs

The Induction Program section of the Performance Pyramid is organized to give districts, classroom teachers, and teacher candidates with a basic overview of  Entry Year Teacher Induction Programs. It will provide a wide range of information included rationale, design and implmentation.  States are constantly changing expectations for entry year teachers.  

What is an Induction Program?

For years, schools have recognized the importance of the first year of teaching and how critical it is to the success of a teacher's career.  Beginning in the mid 1980's  schools have focused on ways to ease the transition of newly-hired teachers into districts.  What they use is a system that does everything from transfers master teacher skills to novice teachers, set up a framework for teacher collaboration, and provide important professional development opportunities. These systems are typically referred to as Induction Year Programs.  80% of incoming teachers participate now participate in some form of induction support. 

The first purpose of any Induction Program is always to set a recently hired teacher up for success in not only their career, but the specific district that they are working in.  The differences between schools and  districts can be enormous. Therefore, successful programs bridge the gap between career success, and district success by helping teachers fit into school and district  routines and norms. As many as one half of new teachers leave within their first three years on the job. Induction 

The second and perhaps more important purpose of any Induction Program is to help make the new teacher a more effective educator. The program should ultimately lead to a better classroom experience for the students, both academically, and by way of classroom management and student-teacher relations. At the very least, this is done through professional development or a mentor teacher assigned to the new teacher. Whatever the case is, the program should enable the teacher to continue to learn as they teach, making them a bigger asset to students.

Beyond these two purposes, district and school building goals with Induction Programs vary. They can include:

Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness /Competence in First Year

A rather controversial use for the Induction Year Program (specifically the first year-based one), some districts have teachers in mentoring and instructional groups that not only help the teacher ease into the district, but also evaluate them based on their performance. This is questionable for a number of reasons, as it can negatively shift the focus away from the teacher's development and change what could be an open, constructive environment into a high pressure, constant interview to keep one's job. On the other hand, when done effectively, this method can streamline the evaluation process and allow districts insight into the strengths and weaknesses of their teacher from a group whose purpose is to fairly evaluate and assist in the growth of a teacher. The feedback of this method can reduce the pressure of evaluations and observations, since the teacher is familiar with the observers primarily from a support role, creating an even more positive environment for improvement and less apprehension and fear of a lack of administrative support that can sometimes occur. The method is clearly double-edged, depending on how it is used. 

Professional Development Opportunities

Often, the best Induction Programs have a professional development element. All teachers are required set numbers of professional development hours a year, and a good Induction Program finds a way to combine the two into an effective pair. This can help make the entire process of professional development less confusing or overwhelming, as well. Some new teachers find professional development stressful if it is not well explained or if it does not seem useful. Making it part of a program that has a clear purpose and that they know primarily for its supportive nature can make it seem less overwhelming.

Supervision of the Beginning Teacher

Most Induction Year Programs have a mentor, or team of mentors, act as a supervisor for the new teacher. This person or group monitors lesson design and implementation, curriculum alignment, and the classroom management skills of the novice teacher, providing assistance when necessary, suggestions, lessons, curriculum alignment assistance, and all manner of support. This can sometimes stall when the school does not provide the mentor teacher pass time (as in: Their educational duties are excused and given to other teachers or a substitute in order to allow them to focus their attention on the new teacher), or the mentor group is not based in the building of the teacher and has obligations elsewhere during the school days. In order to make it most effective, it takes a good deal of planning before the fact of the first year.

Direct Classroom Assistance

Whether it takes the form of team teaching, or just having another authority in the room, some Induction Year Programs give pass time to a veteran teacher mentor to be in the room with a novice teacher as they teach in order to observe and assist. The assistance takes on responsibilities similar to other supervision types, but is more focused and less “crisis-centered” or “Band-Aid” form- as in: the veteran teacher isn't just brought in when the new teacher is having a serious classroom problem that warrants them being there. The veteran teacher is able to directly interact with the novice teacher's needs in the room, as well as witness first-hand the issues a novice teacher will have instead of receiving a second-hand report. This can enable them also to assist in classroom management, which is one of the biggest problems associated with the first year of teaching.

Creating a Culture of Collaboration Among Teachers

The best Induction Year Programs make it a goal that new teachers will be able to interact with their colleagues, both in their departments and across the school. This can accomplished through multiple means. The first, and usually the easiest to orchestrate, is collaboration time with teachers of the same subject that takes the shape of a mutual plan time in which they all can work together to strengthen instructional design, share lesson ideas, experiences, and advice. Increasing this creates an atmosphere of collaboration that will last well past the first year. Many problems of teaching have already been solved by the teachers around a novice teacher. It seems only logical to provide a framework for putting a new teacher in constant contact with their peers. Successful Induction Programs do this.

Mentor Programs vs. Induction Programs

When examining the research behind Induction Programs, the tie that seems to bind all programs together is the presence of a mentor teacher. But this trend isn’t necessarily positive. Oftentimes, mentors are treated as a way for principals and districts to wash their hands of Induction Year Programming responsibilities. By assigning a novice teacher to a veteran in the building (who has no specialized training as a mentor in the first place) the school feels that their duty regarding new teacher induction has been fulfilled. This is almost criminally ineffective, acting at best as a band-aid for sudden problems, and at worst as a non-existent support framework accessed only occasionally when the pair finds they have time to meet.

This has been a traditional method of new teacher induction, and its outcomes are typically aimed towards survival. But if success in the first year is merely survival, then what benefit does this actually have for a first year teacher? Further, it fails the ultimate test of any Induction Year Program, in that it might not actually translate into a better education for the students involved.

It’s a grim reality that new teachers are often assigned to the lowest level classes. Veteran teachers who have been around for a while don’t want to take these classes. Often, no one does. But the veterans have a case- they’ve “done their time” and deserve to have better, higher-achieving classes. This often leaves novice teachers with the classes even the veterans could not effectively teach. These can be the classes that cause a new teacher to burn out, which is not a small problem. If they do not see themselves as effective, successful, or even merely happy in the classroom, then what is their incentive to come to school besides free coffee in the workroom and summers off? How does this inspire them to effectively educate?

The efforts to fix this sort of problem with a mentor teacher are ill-advised at best. Mentors are a fantastic part of an Induction Program. They can serve a purpose both necessary, and effective within a larger framework. But they cannot be used in place of the entire structure. This is the mistake made almost pandemically across America. A new teacher enters a school district, and they are matched up with another teacher. Sometimes the teachers are within their department, but usually they are not. And even if they are, other problems are pervasive within the system. Mismatch of personalities can cause the pair to meet only when required to (or less), and the meetings can be anything but productive. Sometimes there is no mandated number of meetings, so the teachers get together on a need-to-meet basis. Many novice teachers describe their first year teaching mentor as an almost non-existent resource.

This is unsurprising. Induction Programs should be broad, and are effective because of how wide their approaches are. With all the components that go into a successful program, how a school can stop at only providing a mentor (sometimes without even training them) is a hard question to answer. Typically the answer lies in an administration’s undervaluation of the process of the Induction Program, and unwillingness to spend money on training or bigger opportunities in Induction Programs. And the results are widely documented. Researchers like Wong detail heavily the difference in attrition rates between schools with highly involved and effective Induction programs beyond having a mentorship program, and the schools that merely rely on the mentor-novice relationship. The difference is enormous. Schools that invest in programs that are extensive are paid in low turnover rates with newly-hired teachers, while schools that rely on mentorship often find themselves awash in teachers who quit within the first three years

Here are the major problems with merely having a mentorship program:

-Possibility of little-to-no training for mentor: Schools with heavy training for their mentors show a higher retention rate.

-Lack of administrative support: The best mentor programs have administrative backing. Usually, these mentor programs are administration-free. The closest they come to being involved is handing off the teacher to the mentor, and the paperwork to the mailbox.

-Lack of pass time for mentor: Without pass time for the veteran teacher, they often have no opportunities to observe their mentored teacher. Or if they are to find this time, they have to take it by way of professional or personal days, which can create a new stumbling block or controversy.

-Mentor is disconnected from the needs of the novice or new teacher: Sometimes, the mentor teacher is assigned a new teacher without a lot of choice in the matter. This can cause problems personally. But more importantly, it can make them less than useful in terms of material helpfulness to the new teacher. This can be especially true of a teacher outside of the novice teacher’s department.

-Personality Mismatch: If it’s a simple case of a teacher not liking their mentor (or vice versa) the pair might not do anything useful.

-Lack of accountability: Many first year teachers cite the ease of “faking” or simply not doing their Induction Year Program mentoring activities, regarding them as a waste of time or useless.

The biggest problem with mentor programs is, undoubtedly, inconsistency. There are times when the matching process is incredible, and helps produce a strong, effective educator. Other times, the above problems occur. And without a special case, the mentor program is notably ineffective when used alone. Therefore, teachers should be placed into a larger Induction Program that lasts longer than a year, and can even last for the extent of their career.

Why Induction “Year” Programs are not enough

Everyone acknowledges that having a highly qualified teacher in front of the classroom is a must. The language of No Child Left Behind dictates that it is an outright requirement. But without the necessary and proper Induction Programming that is not given as much value, seemingly, as the qualifications, a highly qualified teacher is going to be all that one has. And qualification doesn’t necessarily turn information into impact. For that, students need a highly competent, and truly confident teacher. An effective teacher. And the language of Race to the Top, the newest government education initiative, recognizes this.

Wong and others detail the benefits of long term Induction Programs. One of the best examples that Wong uses frequently is the Flowing Wells school district in Arizona. Their program can be viewed here

http://teachers.net/wong/APR10/The%20Flowing%20Wells%20Induction%20Process.pdf

To briefly summarize, their program is eight years long, and requires hundreds of hours of involvement on the part of the teacher. But it pays dividends of success, as even with the rougher students of Tucson, this school sees high student achievement and success, coupled with high teacher retention. Plus, they have some of the most highly recognized excellent teachers in the state of Arizona. This is because they know how to make the process of Induction part of the natural process of professional development of a teacher.

                As previously mentioned, all teachers take part in professional development throughout their career. Yet many teachers find it odious, or disagreeable. They do not see the point of it, because it is not introduced as useful or necessary. It is seen as the thing after school that they get out late for. Or the thing that means they can take a “boring PD day” for. But in actuality, it’s the first step of helping them continue their education and become an even better, more effective educator. And that’s the key to all Induction Programming. If it doesn’t help a teacher become more effective, then it is useless.

This is why the suggestion to make Induction Programs merely the first step in a career-long dedication to becoming ever more talented as a teacher is such a good one. The results are obvious when looking at examples that Wong provides, such as the Tucson one. Schools with strong Induction Programs have strong professional development. Strong professional development leads to strong teachers. Strong teachers are confident, do not leave the profession, and most importantly, teach students more effectively.

For more examples of Wong’s stance and schools that he cites as examples of having Induction Programs, see:

http://www.newteacher.com/pdf/bulletin0304wong.pdf

Induction Year Programs: An Empirical Look

As a compendium to the above evidence, presented here is the Induction Year Program of a school in Southwestern Ohio. Following it are the positives and negatives of it, as well as the ways it could be improved based on current Induction Program thinking.

Based on interviews with school staff members, this school (which will be referred to by the pseudonym “Alpha School”) has an Induction Year program that starts a few days before the beginning of the school year with an Orientation for new teachers. Within this the new teachers meet the principals, key officials of the district, as well as the chair of their department who provides them with the curriculum guidelines.

Sometime shortly after this, they are assigned a mentor. This mentor is a veteran teacher in the district who has undergone some training and certification, though how much that they thought the mentor had varied by interviewee. This mentor is a non-department teacher who is given neither pass time nor a lightened course load. They are expected to meet twice a month and turn in a report that details what was discussed at each meeting to the administration. The interviewees admitted that often these reports were “faked” or doctored to make it seem as though a meeting had taken place, even if one had not. The mentor and novice also are required to set two sets of goals (one per semester) to turn in along with the meeting logs. Along with these meetings, once a month the local teacher union organized a large meeting of all first year teacher's and mentors. At this meeting they are encouraged to take time to talk to each other about their classrooms, problems, and successes. They also address key issues around the school. For example, after a student died in a car crash, they had a session on how to deal with students who were grieving the death, and how to limit the number of students who were just trying to take advantage of a tragedy.

Due to current flux in the Praxis III certification issues VS. the planned Residency Program that is basically a program in name only at this point, the mentor teacher's observations (which had to be taken as professional days) were used as the measure of the novice teacher's success. In other words, if the mentor signs off on a first year teacher, then that teacher is typically good to go in the school. All of the teacher interviewed said it was a pretty helpful program, and had very few problems with it.

Alpha school has a very average Induction Year Program. After reading the information presented about Induction Year Programs, several things jump out as typical. The unguided mentor process, the lack of administration involvement, and the undervaluation of professional development are the negatives. None of the people interviewed described the mentor teacher as, overall, useful from the perspective of helping with teaching. This translates into no real gains for the students. Though it could be argued that these teachers did not understand the positive effects the meetings and mentors were having, research from people such as Wong supports what they say. Further, considering the great number of admittedly unproductive meetings, it can't be surprising that the process didn't necessarily help the classroom much. And the lack of professional development value at Alpha is evident from any conversation about it with the teachers. More than one described relishing the opportunity to take a personal day on any inservice day that focused on professional development.

To undo this attitude and make a difference in the teaching ability of not only their incoming teachers, but veterans as well, Alpha would do well to change the culture of their school through a trend of Induction Program changes. With more administrative involvement, mandated professional development that seems necessary or helpful, the attitudes would change Also, making it a seemingly inseparable part of the teaching process at Alpha, and catering it towards a collaborative focus, the teachers would acculturate themselves into a group of cooperators.

The mentor-novice relationship cannot be the only thing Alpha provides, essentially. There needs to be mutual collaboration time for at least some of the teachers of the same subject as well. Further, the mentor and novice meetings need to have more use than just a “jaw session” where the novice and mentor don't necessarily feel like they should just talk about anything. The approach is the problem. Adopting something along the lines of the Tucson school district mentioned in the last section would behoove the school.

That said, they are certainly not in the worst shape. They do provide training for their mentors, and have group time with all the first year and mentor teachers with the teacher union. This is an excellent step forward and helps the process to be more than just the “Sink or Swim” program that many schools have. So while Alpha has a big step forward to make, they are on their way. If more schools would follow the best Induction Program practices available, there might be a turnaround from the violent and discouraging statistic of 50% attrition that plagues not only our schools, but the education of our students.

Resources

 http://www.ets.org/pathwise/

  • ETS's Pathwise page. The Pathwise program is a widely used professional development series typically taken on by schools for first year teachers. This is the official site for it, which lists information about how to order or learn more about the program. 

 http://www.ericdigests.org/pre-924/good.htm

  • Overview of the different kinds of Induction Year Programs. It makes the case for the use of Induction Programs that involve the community. It also provides an overview of the ways in which the many different types operate.