Researchers have been studying the concept of support systems for novice and beginning teachers for decades now. Historically, novice teachers are thrown into the classroom with little or no support, and are expected to perform the duties of educating the students assigned to him or her, with great proficiency. Novice teachers, because of lack of experience, may appear to be ineffective. When actually what is most needed is guidance and support. Research that points to teacher effectiveness is often correlated to student achievement. In today’s society, student achievement is the ‘bottom line’ for educational accountability.
The research is clear about the need for support systems for novice and beginning teachers. A study by Sanders and Rivers (1996) compared students who were assigned to ineffective teachers for one or more years with students who were assigned to effective teachers for the same period. They found that students who were assigned to ineffective teachers had significantly lower achievement and their gains in achievement over time were lower than students who were taught by highly effective teachers. This makes the case for making sure novice teachers are supported and provided with sustainable guidance throughout their first years of teaching. A comprehensive teacher mentoring program could provide novice and beginning teachers with guidance and support that is needed during the period that is often categorized as a challenging and difficult time of transition. Teacher mentoring programs can also be the vehicle through which beginning and novice teachers learn the art of being effective in the classroom.
It is critical that research studies provide the foundation for further investigation into the development of sustainable mentoring programs. Researches could also study how participation in a high-intensity teacher mentoring program can directly affect the teaching practices of a novice teacher and therefore making them highly qualified to teach. Even the critically acclaimed Department of Education Act 2001, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) outlined guidelines for highly-qualified teachers. No Child Left Behind (NCLB), specifically addressed issues related to teacher training and quality. The quality of the teaching force was an area of concern for many proponents of education during the development of the legislation. NCLB addressed teacher quality in its Title II Program, which outlined considerations for preparing, training, and recruiting high-quality teachers and principals. One of the main purposes of the Title II program addressed the theory that student learning and achievement can be increased by improving the quality of teachers and the principal. The program was designed to provide support in training and increasing the number of highly-qualified teachers in the classroom, as well as training and increasing the number of highly qualified principals in the schools (U.S. Department of Education, n.d.). NCLB is currently under revision.
One suggested solution for providing the much needed support for novice teachers is to pair them with effective experienced teachers for coaching and mentoring. Another solution is to provide professional learning opportunities for novice teachers. Professional learning programs can be the impetus for assuring novice teachers have the tools they need to successfully meet the needs of the students under their care.
Establishing teacher mentoring programs is another way to provide the novice teachers with support and guidance they need. Professional learning, coaching and the development of sustainable mentoring programs with comprehensive mentoring handbooks or guidebooks are also important aspects of assuring novice teachers are prepared for the workforce. Let’s just hope novice teachers everywhere are supported and guided through their first few years of teaching whether that support is through professional learning, mentoring and coaching or formalized mentoring programs.
Sanders, W.L. & Rivers, J.C. (1996). Cumulative and residual effects of teachers on future student academic achievement. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Value-Added Research and Assessment Center.
NCLB Website. http://www.nclb.org.