Like most states, Iowa is concerned with the retention rate of its new teachers. Over the past decade Iowa has instituted a number of different efforts to combat new teacher turnover, including:
- participation in a 2-year induction program by every new teacher;
- an annual statewide mentoring and induction institute;
- an annual awards program that recognizes outstanding new teacher mentoring and leadership;
- a mentoring and induction network that operates through our Area Educational Agencies (AEAs);
- a mentoring and induction statewide steering committee;
- development of a mentoring and induction model that districts and AEAs can implement; and
- at least one statewide survey of new teachers, mentors, and administrators.
As the latest report from the Iowa Department of Education notes, Iowa’s efforts have improved its new teacher retention rate. Of the 3,520 first- and second-year teachers that began the year in 2007-2008, 3,243 (92.1%) returned in 2008-2009. Only 277 new teachers left the profession. If Iowa was still losing new teachers at the 2001 rate (87.5%), we would have lost 440 teachers instead. In other words, all of the above activity resulted in a net retention gain of 163 teachers.
How much is too much? The cost of each net new teacher retained.
How much did all of this cost? Well, the Iowa Department of Education allocation table shows that in 2007-2008 the Iowa Department of Education spent $4,678,050 on payments to new teacher mentors and their districts or AEAs (Item 1 above). The costs for Items 2 through 7 were covered by grants and other funding sources. This means that Iowa spent $28,700 for each net new teacher retained (total cost / 163) for Item 1 alone, never mind whatever additional expenses there were for Items 2 through 7.
Of course this raises the question of whether the net gain was worth the financial outlay by the state. Most of us are in favor of trying to improve new teacher retention and school district educator induction. At some point, however, the cost becomes too prohibitive for the gain achieved. Is this how much we should spend for each net new teacher retained?
Two questions I would wonder about?
1) Was the sole purpose of the program to stem teacher out migration (ie is the program designed to improve other qualities in new teachers and is that happening?)
2) Is there any possibility that the economy has a very significant impact on the out migration (ie can a lot of the stay-puts be attributed to something other than the program?)
We have seen mobility drop significantly in Wisconsin in this past year for multiple reasons (and none of them are new programs).
People seem skittish about retirement
Budget reductions are causing attrition-based staff reductions (ie fewer jobs open out there)
The environment seems right to encourage the safety of staying put.
We went from hiring an average of 40-50 teachers each year for my first 7 in this district, to a grand total of 1 last year.
So… if it is at all possible that the retention might be attributed to other variables, perhaps the dollars spent on these programs might be harder to link to retention than originally thought…?
I think that Iowa has the right idea. Encouraging young people to enter and stay in the profession is important. I have read a lot of blogs criticizing the backwards ways of the old codgers in the teaching profession. I would gladly step aside if I was confident that the teacher waiting to replace me had some staying power. Encouraging new teachers to seriously consider education as an honorable and worthy profession will come with a price tag, even if it is $30-40 thousand for one year to guarantee retention rates.
Additionally, there is the ongoing issue of teacher salary. Considering education, working conditions, stress, and other factors, I should think that throwing a little money at teachers to encourage them NOT to go work in real estate is a good thing. Perhaps if we paid young teachers better, they’d stick around longer and own their profession.
As a new teacher. I wish they would offer a bonus for staying in the field, instead of requiring all the extras from us. I have enough to do without having a whole eveings tied up attending a class. Give me the money and don’t make me attend a class. The class is not what is making me want to say in teaching, my co-workers and support within the school are what are helping.
I always associated the goals of the list 1-7 above with teacher quality, not teacher retention. The boost in 2007-2008 was most likely aided by the increase in teacher pay tied to moving Iowa towards the national midpoint on beginning teacher pay. Analysis in future years will be difficult because of teacher position cuts across the nation which will hit new teachers hardest.
Agree that cuts will hit new teachers hardest. Will drive the high costs up even higher.
As someone who went through the 2yr mentor program through the AEA, I think we could use our money better. The days that we went to the meetings at the AEA were no help to us at all. There were 3 pairs from my school that attended these mandatory meetings and we all (new teachers) felt that we were back in our alma mater classrooms hearing the SAME thing we just got a degree in. Reminders are nice, but what we really needed was guided time in the classrooms or time set aside in our day/district to watch, learn from, and bounce ideas off of all the teachers in our building. Not to sit and listen to someone preach to the choir.
What I needed/wanted was information on the things we didn’t learn in college. How to handle the unruly/demanding parent, what to do with an ADD child, how to best manage 25 1st graders, etc…. real life stuff, not theory and lesson planning steps.
I learned more from being in the trenches than driving 40 min to listen to someone tell me what I already knew.
Slam to the AEAs, but oh well..
Couldn’t they devote some of that time teaching us and our “veteran teacher” how to be a teacher in the now and not the past? I’d go to that….
We have developed our own mentoring and induction program for year one and year two teachers. We find that we can personalize the meetings, help get new teachers up-to-date on past professional development programs the district has participated in, and give new teachers and their mentors more time to collaborate. There are some hoops to jump through at the state level, but we feel that it’s important, and we were willing to file ammendments to our district plans to include mentoring and induction. (If you feel your group is too small, invite neighboring districts to participate with your teachers.)