The Hawaii State Department of Education is stepping into a new three-year induction program that gives new teachers an automatic mentorship with a veteran educator in an effort to battle the state’s extreme attrition rate with new hires. The Hawaii Teacher Induction Program Standards are part of the state’s Race to the Top Plan.
The goal for Hawaii’s comprehensive program is to accelerate teacher effectiveness and student learning. The program will also build collaborative learning communities for all educators and provide excellent teachers the opportunity to develop into real leaders. Currently, 33 percent of Hawaii’s teacher workforce (approximately 3,600 teachers) are novices with zero to three years in the profession. For many, the learning curve is steep.
“Teachers are the single most important factor in determining student success,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “Our goal is to have every beginning teacher working with a highly skilled instructional mentor to improve their craft. This critical investment in induction will help us to retain quality teachers and offer leadership roles to veteran teachers.”
According to the DOE Office of Human Resources, 56 percent of Hawaii’s public school teachers left the profession within their first five years of teaching. This costs the state every year between $4 million and $29 million. The state DOE manages 12,500 total teachers; as of Nov. 7, it had hired 937 teachers in the 2011-12 school year, up from 565 in the previous year.
Keri Shimomoto, an education specialist at DOE, says these expense figures include costs of termination, recruitment, hiring, substitutes, learning losses and training. “One of the outcomes of high quality induction programs is improved retention of high quality teachers,” she said. “The new plan includes pairing each beginning teacher with a trained instructional mentor. This gives excellent veteran teachers an opportunity to develop as teacher leaders and remain in the profession in a leadership capacity.”
Until recently, all 15 complex area superintendents have been responsible for developing and running induction and mentoring programs. A 2008 University of California at Santa Cruz study by Dr. Lisa Johnson titled, Teacher Induction in the State of Hawaii: Current Efforts, Best Practices and Future Steps, concluded that “there is a patchwork of programs and efforts, some better conceived and some more effective than others” in Hawaii’s public school system. As part of its Race to the Top plan, the new induction standards represent the DOE’s effort to replicate the best components of current complex area programs and establish a common, high bar for quality.
“The selection of highly skilled mentors is essential to successful induction programs,” said Shimomoto. “Mentor selection criteria include a range of characteristics that indicate mentoring potential. Mentor candidates must also provide evidence of successfully working with Hawaii’s diverse student population, including under-performing subgroups.”
According to one Farrington-Kaiser-Kalani complex area induction program participant, “[t]he most beneficial aspect was having a senior teacher meet with me every week face-to-face to discuss the challenges I’d been having and getting immediate and quick feedback from her. I really appreciated the times she was able to come in to observe me and give me feedback about how my lesson went.”