Teacher development model shows promising results as advocates fear funding cuts
The New Teacher Center is touting the results of its teacher induction model instituted in several districts over the past few years
In 2012, the New Teacher Center received federal funding in order to pilot a teacher induction model program, hoping to work with educators in a range of school districts to offer substantive mentoring and professional development. The center expanded its model to three districts, including Chicago Public Schools, Broward County Public Schools in Broward, FL, and Grant Wood Area Education Agency in eastern Iowa.
Late last month, an assessment of the NTC model showed some promising results, indicating that model offered students in grades 4-8 learning gains of as much as two to four months in English language arts and two to five months in mathematics over a three-year span. New Teacher Center CEO Ellen Moir said the results indicated that robust investment in professional development could spur greater student outcomes.
“Our program was very focused on equity and diversity. We wanted to bring a model that really accelerated learning, but could also provide teachers with opportunities to become teacher/developers, we see this as a potential career path,” Moir said. “It’s all about building capacity in the system to build new teachers.
The induction model
The New Teacher Center was one of 20 selected applicants for the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Education Validation Grant. The model placed full-time teacher mentors at district-level teacher development offices, according to an SRI Education evaluation of the efficacy of the program commissioned by the department. The mentors received more than 100 hours of training annually and supported first- and second-year teachers, with a consistent ratio of 15 teachers for each mentor, receiving two years of coaching at a minimum of 180 minutes per month.
“We have tools not only to observe teacher practice, but help them to observe student learning,” Moir said. “We help the mentors think of each of the new teachers, so it’s a very collaborative process, and that’s the kind of professional learning we’ve often done.”
The assessment found the districts involved instituted the model as instructed, and teachers remained at similar levels for those participating in the model and a separate control group. With ELA, students with teachers in the NTC model recorded gains equal to approximately two to 3.5 additional months of learning — depending on an individual student’s grade level — and in mathematics, the gains were equal to about 2.4 to 4.5 months of additional learning.
Moir said that district leaders interested in emulating such an approach could work on instituting instructional leadership teams, offering more direct communication between educators and the principal. The hope, she said, was that schools could engender an atmosphere that encouraged teachers to be learning from each other. Moir said that school principals had been very complimentary of the NTC’s approach.
Disconcerting signs from Washington
However, according to NTC Policy Director Liam Goldrick, proposals in President Donald Trump’s recent budget proposal could damage work being done on teacher development programs such as the induction model. In its May budget proposal, the Trump administration proposed entirely eliminating Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, also known as Title II Part A funding in the Every Student Succeeds Act. The legislation intends to boost student achievement by “improving teacher and principal quality and increasing the number of highly qualified teachers in the classroom and highly qualified principals and assistant principals in schools,” according to its language.
Goldrick said that while policymakers had indicated that all the cuts in Trump’s proposed budget would not likely survive passage, it was still a disconcerting indication of the differing approach of Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
“As we see it, the president’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget is policy making with a machete, rather than a scalpel,” he said. “A wholesale zeroing out of Title II doesn’t differentiate between what works and what may not. In many ways, it’s a repudiation that teachers are able to grow on the job, and that’s antithetical to what the New Teacher Center represents in the field.”
In a summary of major changes and reforms proposed in the president’s 2018 budget prepared by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, the Trump administration argues in supporting for entirely eliminating Title II funding, arguing that “funds are poorly targeted and spread too thinly” to actually have an impact on student outcomes. The administration proposes that agencies, organizations or schools hoping to fund the two most prominent usages of Title II funding (professional development at 52%, or class size reduction at 25%) can utilize Title I. The administration also argues that, thus far, professional development for teachers has been shown to have “limited impact on student achievement.”
Looking toward the future
The New Teacher Center is in the midst of scaling its induction model program in the coming years with an expansion of the Innovation in Education federal grant, which will bring NTC-approved and educated mentors to Fresno and San Francisco, CA; Polk County and Miami, FL; and New York City. Moir said many of these policies and programs are aimed at attacking system inequities, noting that many more students of color were more likely to be taught by a teacher in their first year than white students. Such teachers are often placed in schools without many resources and are not offered the professional development that may be required for success.
“I think America needs to really value and own and honor its teachers,” Moir said. “We’re getting upwards of 250,000 new teachers in schools every year. These are young people who want to make a difference; if we keep giving the toughest assignments and toughest schools, they’ll leave. I think that’s really at the heart of what we’re trying to advocate for and model."