Instruction Matters

Maria Marsella Leahy
Doctoral Student
Educational Leadership College of Education
University of North Carolina Charlotte

 
Teacher retention: it’s a hot topic in education. We know the effects on student achievement and the high cost of losing teacher only too well. In a recent article in the Charlotte Observer, Bill Anderson noted that almost half of new teachers leave the profession in their first five years. A strong support system may have a positive effect on retention of beginning teachers. Anderson’s article went on to highlight a statewide program that has had positive effects on teacher retention and student achievement, the North Carolina New Teacher Support Program (NC NTSP).

 
As a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), I decided to look more deeply into the program and how it may be a resource for our Charter School members. I met with Amanda Macon, UNC Charlotte Regional Project Director. She is passionate about the program and its results for beginning teacher. She went on to add how the program positively affects student achievement, “the one number reason we are educators.” UNCC is one of six centers that support regions around North Carolina. Western Carolina University, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, North Carolina State University, Eastern Carolina University, and the UNC Center for School Leadership Development support other districts and public charter schools throughout the state. Each program runs under the same structure with the same goal: “to improve the effectiveness of beginning teachers through intensive induction support aligned to each teacher’s individual needs, teaching assignment, and school environment.”

 
When I met with Dr. Macon, she shared a packet of information outlining the program. She enthusiastically talked about three pillars of the program: Instructional Skills Institute, Professional Development, and Instructional Coaching. The first pillar, the Instructional Skills Institute, includes two daylong meet-ups regionally, strategically following the opening of the school year, where the teachers, their coaches, and NC NTSP staff meet to discuss issues, share stories, participate in development, and form bonds of support. The second pillar, Professional Development, takes place at the individual school sites or at the district level and is led by professionals from the program. (Each coach becomes an expert in a certain area and is able to provide professional development.) Amanda mentioned that often more school staff than just the beginning teachers will attend the sessions. The third pillar, and to me the most intriguing one, Instructional Coaching is integral to the program. Each teacher is assigned a coach who works with him/her to support his/her needs. The coach meets face-to-face, visits the school, and is available via email and phone to help address issues that may occur. They are available during the day, evening, and weekends. Dr. Macon told stories of coaches sharing ideas and materials and providing other supports. The beauty of this type of coach is that he/she is a fresh set of eyes with the perspective of a teacher (all coaches are former teachers) and not in role that is supervisory. That is a big plus; it is much easier to ask for help with an issue from a person who will not be evaluating you in the future. A teacher quoted in the NC NTSP literature stated, “I was able to establish a solid authentic relationship with my Coach that allowed her to efficiently communicate problem solving strategies.” Coaching is woven in the other two pillars as well. The coach participates in professional development with the beginning teacher. This allows the beginning teacher to seek advice and affirmation as he/she implements new ideas. How many times has professional development been left at the workshop because there is limited or no follow up?

 
In charter schools, especially newer schools, leaders are very busy preforming a variety of essential tasks. Often the number of beginning teachers is high. NC NTSP gives the beginning teacher the support he/she needs when time does not allow the school leader to effectively handle all the aspects of running a school and provide the best support possible to those who need it. A third year teacher describes the effect of the support she receives from the program, “…and this is the most help I’ve had in all three years, and I cannot tell you, I cannot stress how much of a difference it’s made for me. I felt like I was okay.” More information and reflections from teachers, principals, and coaches can be found in a short video at http://ncntsp.northcarolina.edu/ (the video is at the bottom of the page).

 
The North Carolina New Teacher Support Program is partially funded by North Carolina General Assembly, UNC General Administration and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. Schools provide financial support of $1,900 per participating teacher per year. The NC NTSP share statistics revealing higher student achievement in school that participated in the program when compared to similar schools (Number of teachers who met expected growth: 81% as compared to 77%). Beginning teacher retention was also higher in NCNTSP participating schools than similar schools (84% as compared to 74%).
Considering the negative effects of teacher attrition on student achievement and the financial cost to schools, schools may want to look into support from the North Carolina New Teacher Program. For more information on the program in this region or statewide, contact Amanda Macon at UNCC, amandamacon@uncc.edu or visit the website, ncntsp.northcarolina.edu.