A new White House report reveals what many of us in education have known for a long time: our most needy students often times have the least prepared and experienced teachers. The report states the share of first-year teachers was strongly correlated with the share of black and Hispanic students. Nearly twice as many first-year teachers are teaching in predominantly minority schools (which are often times low SES as well) compared to schools with no minorities.
We know that teaching is a very difficult profession to gain mastery in and that it takes teachers 5-7 years to develop the content knowledge, pedagogy, and skill sets to become a master teacher. For minority students, the constant revolving door of first-year teachers comes with the reality that their academic gaps will most likely not be closed with novice, inexperienced teachers. Many schools and districts compound this challenge by placing minority students, often the ones with the most academic needs, in the most inexperienced teacher classrooms.
Our minority students deserve to have the same access to high quality teachers and resources as non-minority students. Our low SES students, which often cross over racial demographics, deserve the very same access to high quality teachers.
Districts and campuses that serve minority students and low SES communities have to begin to think about providing the in-service support new teachers need in order to develop competencies and confidence as quickly as possible. A well implemented teacher induction program is not only the best way to support new teachers in those crucial first years but it will also help improve the likelihood that new teachers stick around longer and become the invested teachers these campuses and districts need if they are to truly turnaround the achievement gaps in their system.
Here in West Oso ISD, we are trying to address this very need through our teacher induction program, Bear TIPS. Our program seeks to provide 3 years of in-service support to our new teachers. We begin with a First Year Teacher Academy (FYTA) that meets with teachers six times during the first year. We follow that up with a FYTA2 in year 2 that focuses on deepening teacher understanding of best practices and effective instructional strategies. FYTA3 is in year 3 and focuses on assessing for learning. The program also has specific mentor training so that our new teachers are supported by an experienced colleague on their campus in addition to the FYTA supports and the site leader support. We add to these components a periodic newsletter that lets the entire district know what the FYTA teachers are working on and how to support our new teachers in those crucial first years.
We were fortunate enough to be recognized by Texas School Business magazine for the Bragging Rights 2016-2017 issue as an innovative program. We’re humbled to be included with the other 11 districts recognized in the issue. We accept the recognition as proof that when district leadership wants to take specific steps to address the staffing challenges and the academic challenges that can come with minority dominant communities, great things can happen.
We know that much work remains and the struggle to provide our students with the highest quality teachers available will exist for some time. We hope that we have at least modeled a way in which districts, small or large, can begin to address the needs of all students and create the equity we know should exist across the educational spectrum.