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Study explores mentoring’s connection to new teacher retention

By Elizabeth Foster
August 2022
Throughout the summer, Learning Forward members have shared with us their stories of teacher vacancies in schools and districts, reminding us that the question of how to keep teachers in the classroom and support them through difficult times is pressing. Recruiting new teachers is a critical priority across the U.S., as it has been for decades. Retaining teachers is an equally critical need, as teacher turnover or attrition is expensive, detrimental to the culture of schools, and negatively impacts outcomes for educators and students (Carroll, 2007). It is also an equity concern, given that teacher attrition is higher in schools already limited in resources and among teachers of color (Carver-Thomas & Darling-Hammond, 2017; Pearson & Fuglei, 2019). Many schools and districts have induction programs that

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A national perspective on mentoring practices

It is helpful to balance a look at a close study of one district mentoring program over a short period of time with a look at a large national longitudinal analysis. A recent analysis of several years of data from a national survey of new teachers in the United States examined new-teacher retention and how mentoring practices might predict it.

The study

Maready, B., Cheng, Q., & Bunch, D. (2021). Exploring mentoring practices contributing to new teacher retention: An analysis of the beginning teacher longitudinal study. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 19(2), 88-99.

Researchers conducted a secondary analysis of data from the Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau from the 2007-08 school year through the 2011-12 school year. This national survey was designed by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics to follow educators’ career paths and gather data about the reasons they stay, change positions or schools, or leave the profession. (Note that the researchers used prepandemic data, and there is no discussion of the pandemic, school closures, virtual learning, or the impact of any of those factors on educator stress levels, wellness, or intent to stay in or leave the profession.)

Fourteen out of the 23 mentoring practices studied predicted new teachers’ retention in the same teaching assignment for a second year. Nine of the practices predicted retention in the teaching profession into the fifth year. Seven practices predicted both.

Practices that were significant for both timeframes included having a mentor who taught the same subject as the new teacher and provided frequent support in selecting and adapting curriculum. In addition, retention was more likely when new teachers reported that the mentor’s support improved a variety of instructional methods and classroom management.

Factors that predicted retention only into the first year included having a mentor whose main job was mentoring and who provided frequent supports in subject and grade-level instruction. Factors that predicted retention in the fifth year but not the second included frequent observations by the mentor and frequent support in reflecting on teaching practice.

These findings suggest that high-quality mentoring does make a difference for teacher retention, and they provide insight for making decisions about priorities in program design and resource allocation.

References

Carroll, T. (2007). The high cost of teacher turnover. National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future.

Carver-Thomas, D. & Darling-Hammond, L. (2017). Teacher turnover: Why it matters and what we can do about it. Learning Policy Institute.

Learning Forward. (2022). Standards for Professional Learning. Author.

Pearson, F. & Fuglei, M. (2019). Keeping teachers of color: Recruitment is not the problem. Journal of Curriculum, Teaching, Learning and Leadership in Education, 4(1), Article 5.


Vice President, Standards & Research | + posts

Elizabeth Foster (elizabeth.foster@learningforward.org) is vice president, research & standards at Learning Forward. In each issue of The Learning Professional, Foster explores recent research to help practitioners understand the impact of particular professional learning practices on student outcomes.


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