Beginning a new career can be a daunting task for anyone. The Beginning Teachers Support Program offered through Clinton City Schools has served as a beneficial resource for those making the transition into the profession.
While the state mandates that every school system provide a Beginning Teachers Support Program for all educators who are entering their first, second and third year of teaching, Dr. Kelly Batts and other school administrators say Clinton City Schools works hard to not only provide the initial support needed, but continue offering support throughout the teaching career.
“We aren’t just trying to retain our teachers, but we are hoping to increase their confidence level,” Batts said during the board’s regular meeting Monday as she presented information about the program to board members.
Beginning teachers receive a layered level of support, depending on the teacher’s years of service. As a teacher gain more experience, the support level decreases, but Batts explained, it never goes away.
According to Batts, teachers who are in their first year of the program are assigned a mentor, provided an orientation, develop a Professional Development Plan with the assistance of their administrative staff, complete any professional development required by their local school system and is observed at least four times culminating with a summative evaluation.
During the 2015-2016 school year, Batts said Clinton City Schools is home to approximately 40 beginning teachers. Of those, 65 percent were in their first year of teaching, while 9 percent were in their second year and 26 percent are in their third year.
“More than nine out of 10 beginning teachers considered the layered level of support in Clinton City School helpful or very helpful,” Batts explained.
Teachers in the second and third years continue to have a mentor, update their Professional Development Plans, complete any professional development required by their school system and is observed at least four times culminating with a summative evaluation.
Many beginning teachers have been certified in the non-traditional manner and enter as a lateral entry teacher. These teachers make up for approximately 44 percent of the beginning teachers in Clinton City Schools. Teachers who are lateral entry do not enter into teaching after obtaining a teaching degree, but rather enter from work experience or a related course of study in college.
“We are planning to offer more support for the lateral entry teachers because we have such a high number entering into the profession through this non-traditional method,” Batts said.
According to Batts, 94.1 percent of the beginning teachers are planning to return to Clinton City Schools for the 2016-2017 school year. Many of the teachers say the retention strategies put in place by Clinton City Schools, such as administration support, mentor support and colleague support, are all reasons for the decision to stay.
“We are feeling really good about the strategies we put in place last year,” Batts shared. “It speaks highly of the support our administrators are giving to the beginning teachers.”
Local school systems are responsible for providing training and support for mentor teachers. Systems may choose to use programs developed by the Department of Public Instruction, use other programs or develop programs of their own. Mentors need the knowledge, skills and attitudes to be effective instructional coaches, emotional supports, and organizational guides to those entering the profession.
“Each district is required to have a program, but the state does give you a skeleton structure that tells you what kinds of things have to be included in that plan, so all of us have some things in common, but it’s up to the district to do things their teachers need,” Batts said.
New to Clinton City Schools was the beginning teachers-mentor program. A survey conducted by administrative staff provided information that shows the professional development, buddy/mentor meetings and observation feedback were all a part of what made the year easier for beginning teachers and instilled that higher confidence level Batts and other administrators are looking for.
“We have 91.2 percent of our beginning teachers believe their teaching has improved over time because of the Beginning Teachers Support Program offered to the teachers,” Batts said.
While the system does try to pair buddies and beginning teachers based on the curriculum taught, Batts said with the large number of beginning teachers in the system, guaranteeing every new teachers with a similar-subject buddy is impossible.
“We try our best to pair them with a teacher who teaches the same subject, but it isn’t always possible,” Batts added. “Being a mentor isn’t a requirement, it’s something a veteran teacher has to want to do. They have to show an interest in wanting to support beginning teachers.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.