Districts spend on average $18,000 per teacher every year on professional development, with little to show for it. That's why we were excited to see the new research findings looking at the New Teacher Center's induction model--most teachers' first experience with professional development. A recent study found that the New Teacher Center's approach resulted in up to five months of additional learning. Remarkable!
But there's a real puzzle here to be solved. While student outcomes--what matters most--showed tremendous gains, teachers' observation ratings did not. Other than there not being enough observations conducted to detect differences, one explanation may be the instrument used to observe the teachers, that being the tried and true Danielson Framework. It may be time to revisit those indicators to ensure that they align with student outcomes at the earliest stages of a teacher's career.
Here are the attributes of the NTC approach that yielded dramatic learning gains:
First off, significant time is dedicated to building districts' capacity to support the induction model. Mentors are carefully selected and intensively trained to assess their teachers, and instructed to meet with each mentee for at least 180 minutes a month and focus on instruction during that time.
Most striking was the program's significant investment in mentor training--with a requirement of 100 hours of training for each mentor teacher for two years. Could that be the secret sauce?
The big question left isn't if districts should use this model, but if they can afford it. The cost to implement the program is just $500-$900 per new teacher for the New Teacher Center's services, but that doesn't include the districts' costs for the mentor teachers and any associated stipends or salaries. These line items could run a district $5,600-$8,000 for a fully-released mentor per teacher, depending on the local salary scale (credit to NTC for providing us with these estimates). Our bottom line is that if these outcomes are consistently replicated, the costs are without question fully defensible.