Guest post by Rachel Heide

What support can districts provide to new teachers to help them adjust to the school community and the demands of the profession?

Two vital components for producing positive student outcomes are recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers. According to a 2015 U.S. Department of Education study on public school teacher attrition and mobility rates, as new teachers move toward their fifth year of teaching, the rate of attrition nears 20 percent (IES, 2015). When nearly one in five teachers is leaving the profession by his or her fifth year of teaching, schools run the risk of losing talented teachers who could be making the needed impact toward positive student outcomes. Finding ways to retain the talented teachers we hire has become an imperative, and this was identified as a key ingredient for meeting the needs of students during a period of population growth at Erie Middle School.

Over the past seven years, Erie Middle School in Erie, CO, has experienced unprecedented growth, more than doubling its student enrollment. As the student population has grown, the teaching staff has also grown. At the beginning of the 2015–2016 school year, one-third of the teaching staff at Erie Middle School was new to teaching and/or the school as a result of this growth or due to attrition. In order to support the unique learning needs of these new teachers and support their retention in the teaching profession, we created the New Teacher Jump Start (NTJS).

The NTJS met in person monthly as well as through an iTunes U course developed around the following key topics:

  • Acclimation to the school culture and processes
  • istock_000021109270_doubleUnderstanding the students we serve
    • Demographic groups
    • Walking tour of attendance area
    • Aligning structures, methods, and techniques to support the various student populations
  • Effective grading and feedback practices
  • Reflecting on professional practice
  • Support with major school initiatives
    • 1:1 Learning Initiative
    • Supporting Gifted and Talented learners
  • Mentoring partnerships

The walking tour of the attendance area proved to be a surprisingly powerful element that helped new teachers understand the history of our drastically changing area and allowed teachers to see the areas where our students live. In addition, discussions around effective grading and feedback practices within this group sparked building-wide interest in reframing traditional practices that were currently in place.

As a result of forming this specialized, intentional group, teachers reported feeling a greater sense of community and support within the school, a more effective acclimation into teaching and/or their new school, and a greater sense of efficacy in their professional practice.

How might you engage your school’s or district’s new teachers in professional development that meets their unique needs? In what ways can schools capitalize on veteran teacher leaders’ expertise in order to support beginning teachers?

Rachel Heide is currently the principal at Westlake Middle School, located in Broomfield, CO. Before joining the Westlake team, Rachel was the assistant principal at Erie Middle School in Erie, CO. She is the 2016 NASSP Colorado Assistant Principal of the Year.

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