For too many young people, teaching is not an attractive profession. Even the dynamic few who are called to this profession fall prey to heavy workloads, disrespect, and eventual burnout. Perhaps no statistic is more condemning than the fact that almost half of all new teachers now leave the profession within five years.
Programs like KTIP, the Kentucky Teacher Internship Program, were designed to combat this crisis in teacher retention. By pairing Kentucky’s first-year teachers with veteran educator mentors, KTIP provided the resources and support needed for new teachers to find success. But that program has been out of commission for two years now due to budget concerns, and Kentucky has yet to replace it.
To be clear, Kentucky needs programs like KTIP. They’ve been proven to be one of the most effective solutions for bolstering teacher retention. (And there aren’t many.) But even in the absence of KTIP, Kentucky school districts still have plenty of opportunities to support their newest, most vulnerable educators.
Every Teacher Needs A Mentor
I can’t imagine what my teaching would look like now without the help of seasoned veterans who mentored me along the way. When new teachers move off to a new school — or even consider leaving the profession — they’re not leaving because of the kids. They’re leaving because they feel isolated and unsupported. Mentorships help address that.
With KTIP gone, some Kentucky districts have gotten creative with their attempts to foster mentorship opportunities for new educators. Boyle County, for example, has lifted language directly from the former KTIP program to create their own district-wide mentorship program. Seasoned educators there receive stipends to work alongside first year teachers, teaching them the X’s and O’s of developing resources and incorporating effective strategies to boost student outcomes. Boyle County’s program is simple in that it’s basically KTIP-lite, and there’s no reason why other districts around Kentucky couldn’t work to emulate it.
However, in the event that your local school district doesn’t have the funding to support mentor teachers with stipends, there are still other ways to engage young teachers with meaningful professional learning. A new organization called Kentucky Supporting and Engaging New Teachers (KY SENT) offers young teachers an array of professional resources and access to virtual learning from seasoned educators from around the state. Complete with a newly-launched website and Twitter account, new teachers don’t have to wait all summer before considering their professional learning opportunities.
Finally, while this isn’t as clearly connected to KTIP as the other initiatives, the rollout of professional development schools (PDS) from universities like my alma mater (Go Racers!) show that teacher education programs also have a role to play in the retention crisis. For the past couple of years, Murray State University has been developing partnerships with local public schools around the Western Kentucky region to provide future educators with valuable classroom experiences before they ever begin student teaching. Helping young teachers better understand the realities of the profession is a noble and valuable goal, and professional development schools can play a large part in setting up aspiring educators for success.
In the PDS setting, pre-service teachers work alongside current educators to observe, assist, and eventually lead instruction in an actual classroom setting. The mentoring that candidates receive from their cooperating teachers is invaluable, and getting to serve as “junior faculty members” at their host schools leaves a lasting mark on their preparedness.
If you’re in the Western Kentucky region and wondering what you can do to establish a Professional Development School in your district, consider reaching out to Murray State’s Teacher Quality Institute to learn more. And if you happen to work somewhere else within the teacher education sphere, recognize that there’s no copyright on good policy: consider how you can work with local school districts to develop professional development schools of your own.
Teacher retention is vital for ensuring that our students have the best opportunities to learn and succeed. What else can we add to the list to ensure that help combat our retention crisis?