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Peer Assistance Programs Not Only Benefit New Teachers, But Students As Well

A recent study has found that when young teachers have a well-seasoned mentor regularly offering constructive feedback, it has a positive impact on student learning.

With roughly half of new teachers leaving the profession within their first five years, the study’s goal was to look at the independent evaluation of the New Teacher Center's (NTC) induction program and its positive impacts on the profession and in the classroom.

Conducted by SRI Education, the study looked at “randomized controlled trials” in Florida’s Broward County School District and Chicago Public Schools.  he induction program was found to have an overall positive impact on students in the areas of language arts and mathematics with the new teacher mentor relationship resulting in an extra three to five months of learning in the classroom.

Mentors received more than 100 hours of training and supported both first and second year teachers with one mentor supervising 15 teachers across multiple schools. The new teachers, many of which work in lower income schools that are often considered “hard-to-staff” schools met with their mentors weekly for a minimum of 180 minutes per month.

Over the course of two years, the implementation study assessed how well the sites implemented the NTC model and rated each district annually on the model’s key components, such as developing teachers’ skills in lesson planning and analyzing student work.

During the trial periods where new teachers had mentors and utilized the NTC model, students in grades 4–8 outperformed students in classrooms where the NTC model was not in place. The number of NTC-supported teachers who continued to teach into their third year was however, not statistically significant compared to those who were not part of the program, with 79 and 78 percent retainment rates.

For newer teachers that have participated in similar mentorship programs, having that support system of somebody who knows how overwhelming those first few years of teaching can be is monumental.

"I was losing trust with my students, and I think that kind of killed me this year," Sam Schroeder, a first year music teacher in South Dakota said. Schroeder is under the wing of 32-year teaching vet Tammy Steiner and said her guidance has helped him recognize his own problems that he brings into the classroom. "So I now know for next year that, if I say something, I have to follow through with it."

While mentorship programs don't address all of the factors that can push a new teacher out of the classroom, such as pay, the guidance of teacher mentor can help new teachers get over those first few hurdles quicker.

Logan Hall, supervisor of the Peer Assistance Review mentorship program in Salt Lake City, says the program not only helps retain teachers, but identify those who aren’t cut out for the job. "We don't retain everybody, Hall told the Salt Lake Tribune. The program recently saw part of its state funding cut by lawmakers.

The Salt Lake school board president expects the program to continue in some form, just not in the exact form it has been. For Hall, it’s a program that functions as an essential tool in retaining and cultivating confident teachers. "It helps them feel more successful at what they're doing," Hall said. "I think that goes a long way."


Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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