As education leaders, how do we retain our experienced teachers and leverage their support for new teachers? With the prospect of a “great resignation” — and the associated costs to replace them — well documented, that question has never been more important.
Rather than add a new initiative, districts can double down on their new teacher mentorship and induction programs.
Why mentorship as a key lever for educator retention? The impact of effective mentorship programs is clear:
Robust mentorship programs are a true win-win: they can minimize attrition for all teachers by supporting the growth of teacher-leaders and the onboarding of new educators.
In North Dakota, where mentorship has been a focus for the state, participation in the North Dakota Teacher Support System Mentoring Program (NDTSS) made teachers more likely to stay during their first five years of teaching (North Dakota Teacher Support System, 2020). Teacher retention increased by over 10% through targeted professional learning and ongoing support to both mentors and incoming teachers.
But what makes for a rigorous, empowering, and comprehensive mentorship program? One that respects teachers’ time and skills with high-leverage practices (Harmsen et al., 2019, Manning & Jeon, 2020). According to field research, the most effective mentorship programs are ones that:
- Make “voice and choice” a reality, for both mentors and new teachers: Veteran teachers are being asked to wear countless hats in the school building. Allow for choice in both scheduling and content of professional learning to work around the schedules and interests of both new teachers and mentors. Allow teachers to select from asynchronous or live courses offered at different times of day.