Study: Novice teachers often face tougher loads than veteran colleagues
- Despite being less experienced in the field, newer teachers — especially those with less than two years under their belts — are often placed in more instructionally demanding classrooms, which have more disadvantaged and low-achieving students, than their veteran colleagues, a recent study finds.
- The study, published in January by the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER), examined 10 years' worth of data from teachers — both novice educators and veterans with at least six years of experience — in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). It found that the novice teachers, in addition to having more English learners, had more students with lower achievement and more disciplinary issues as compared to their veteran counterparts.
- Novice teachers were also more likely to end up in schools with fewer veteran co-workers, the study notes, adding that an educator's instructional load is "the most consistent predictor of teachers’ outcomes," and placing novice teachers in these tougher situations could be impacting their level of effectiveness.
This study, while conducted in only one district, highlights educational issues taking place in school systems across the nation. LAUSD is the country's second-largest school district, serving a diverse student body that totals more than 600,000. And if such issues are occurring in a major urban district, it's possible — or arguably likely — that it's happening elsewhere.
Facing a larger instructional load than more experienced peers can have long-term effects on a newer teacher, as well as on their students and the schools in which they teach. As public schools continue to struggle with teacher shortages, it's increasingly important that states and districts work to boost recruitment and retention strategies. But if educators are immediately placed into situations they're not equipped to handle — while also not having access to as many veteran co-workers who might be able to help — schools could be playing a hand in their teachers leaving their district or the profession as a whole.
In addition, students stand to lose when their teachers leave — those affected by low retention, a 2018 study notes, learned less and had lower scores as a result of the disruption surrounding their teacher leaving. And this disruption doesn't stop at the academic front — teacher retention and school climate and culture go hand in hand. As the researchers write, "Retention and support of teachers, especially novice teachers, has critical implications for school operations and, in turn, student learning and achievement."
Before a new school year starts, it's key for principals and other school administrators to think carefully when matching novice educators to schools and to classrooms. It's not always possible for a newer educator to avoid being placed in a more challenging situation — for example, if they're working in a high-needs district — but school officials can help mitigate any issues a less experienced might face as they navigate their work as an instructor.
Teacher mentoring programs and other professional development opportunities also allow less-experienced teachers to have time to learn from and work alongside the experts in their profession. Effective mentorship programs have been deemed crucial in helping a teacher be better at what they do and in keeping them around — two factors that any administrator would reasonably support.
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