The Hawaii State Department of Education is stepping into a new three-year induction program that gives new teachers an automatic mentorship with a veteran educator in an effort to battle the state’s extreme attrition rate with new hires. The Hawaii Teacher Induction Program Standards are part of the state’s Race to the Top Plan.
The goal for Hawaii’s comprehensive program is to accelerate teacher effectiveness and student learning. The program will also build collaborative learning communities for all educators and provide excellent teachers the opportunity to develop into real leaders. Currently, 33 percent of Hawaii’s teacher workforce (approximately 3,600 teachers) are novices with zero to three years in the profession. For many, the learning curve is steep.
“Teachers are the single most important factor in determining student success,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “Our goal is to have every beginning teacher working with a highly skilled instructional mentor to improve their craft. This critical investment in induction will help us to retain quality teachers and offer leadership roles to veteran teachers.”
High quality induction and mentoring programs help beginning teachers to accelerate their development into effective veteran teachers. Thus, the implementation of teacher induction standards comes at a critical time as states across the country are coping with an increasing exodus of educators from the classroom.
According to the DOE Office of Human Resources, 56 percent of Hawaii’s public school teachers left the profession within their first five years of teaching. This costs the state every year between $4 million and $29 million. The state DOE manages 12,500 total teachers; as of Nov. 7, it had hired 937 teachers in the 2011-12 school year, up from 565 in the previous year.
Keri Shimomoto, an education specialist at DOE, says these expense figures include costs of termination, recruitment, hiring, substitutes, learning losses and training. “One of the outcomes of high quality induction programs is improved retention of high quality teachers,” she said. “The new plan includes pairing each beginning teacher with a trained instructional mentor. This gives excellent veteran teachers an opportunity to develop as teacher leaders and remain in the profession in a leadership capacity.”
Until recently, all 15 complex area superintendents have been responsible for developing and running induction and mentoring programs. A 2008 University of California at Santa Cruz study by Dr. Lisa Johnson titled, Teacher Induction in the State of Hawaii: Current Efforts, Best Practices and Future Steps, concluded that “there is a patchwork of programs and efforts, some better conceived and some more effective than others” in Hawaii’s public school system. As part of its Race to the Top plan, the new induction standards represent the DOE’s effort to replicate the best components of current complex area programs and establish a common, high bar for quality.
Some examples of the new induction standards include:
• All teachers in their first two years must be provided with intensive mentoring, with services available for teachers in their third year as requested.
• The ratio of beginning teachers to mentors cannot exceed 15:1.
• All beginning teachers will have a professional growth plan that addresses specific skills and content gaps.
• All mentors will receive extensive research-based training in how to be an effective instructional coach.
“The selection of highly skilled mentors is essential to successful induction programs,” said Shimomoto. “Mentor selection criteria include a range of characteristics that indicate mentoring potential. Mentor candidates must also provide evidence of successfully working with Hawaii’s diverse student population, including under-performing subgroups.” However, they don’t feel they will have any lack of mentors because “there are already people doing this type of work at the school level.”
According to one Farrington-Kaiser-Kalani complex area induction program participant, “[t]he most beneficial aspect was having a senior teacher meet with me every week face-to-face to discuss the challenges I’d been having and getting immediate and quick feedback from her. I really appreciated the times she was able to come in to observe me and give me feedback about how my lesson went.”
Complex area superintendents must ensure current complex induction programs align to the new standards. Complex areas will receive a total of $3 million in federal Title II monies in support. An additional $3 million of federal Race to the Top funds will go towards mentor training and program quality monitoring.
It’s hoped that by the end of school year 2012-13, a consistent system-wide induction and mentoring program tailored to the unique needs of schools and complex areas will accelerate teacher efficacy and increase student learning and growth. Visit hawaiidoereform.org to learn more about the Hawaii Teacher Induction Program standards.