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New support program retains teachers well

These days whenever I speak with local superintendents, human resource directors, and school administrators, the discussion often returns to the current shortage of qualified teachers. In fact, the teaching profession in general has not had much positive news over the past few years when it comes to retaining teachers. Nationwide, retention numbers are dismal. Approximately half of all new teachers are leaving the profession within their first five years, and in high poverty schools, the numbers are even higher.

While these statistics would shock private business owners, it has unfortunately become business as usual for most of our North Carolina school superintendents and school building administrators.

There is hope the tide is turning. During the 2014-15 school year the N.C. New Teacher Support Program has had an amazing story to tell, and the good news is certainly welcome.

The statewide program is administered through multiple anchor institutions, including UNC Charlotte, which serves 25 schools in seven districts. The program provides sustained support for new teachers through a two-day boot camp in the fall and year round in-classroom coaching visits. Each new teacher is assigned a coach for the entire year and provided with relevant professional development in the areas of planning, student behavior management, engaging instructional practices and assessments, and higher order thinking skills.

The program has served 158 teachers from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, many from the districts’ most challenged schools. Of those 158, only eight left the teaching profession. As telling as the numbers are, the true impact is revealed when you speak to individual teachers.

“What I don’t think that my coach and the New Teacher Support Program understand, is how much of [my] growth is owed to them and the support I have received from the program throughout the years. Without her and the program, I may not have made it through year one,” said Elizabeth Bourne, a third year teacher at Bruns Avenue Elementary.

It should be noted the N.C. New Teacher Support Program recently posted a 95 percent retention rate, which is significantly higher than average retention rates in districts across the state. Based on these retention data the New Teacher Support Program seems to be a very wise return on investment.

The program is funded by the North Carolina General Assembly, UNC General Administration, and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. It costs approximately $1,900 per teacher annually, a very modest amount when you consider the time and money spent on retraining and rehiring a new crop of educators year after year.

The General Assembly should be applauded for its vision and support of this affordable and effective program which has shown considerable promise. The N.C. New Teachers Support Program significantly improves teacher retention in some of CMS’s most high needs schools, including those that have struggled with high turnover rates in previous years.

As a former principal the most important thing I did was to hire great teachers and then keep them in our school. The NC New Teacher Support Program has proven itself to be a real gem and our lawmakers should be thanked for their support and hopeful expansion in the future.

This perspective was published in the Charlotte Observer on November 7, 2015. It is reprinted here with the author’s permission.

Bill Anderson

Bill Anderson is the special assistant for community affairs at UNC Charlotte’s College of Education.